Although blood is mainly a liquid (called plasma), it also contains small solid components (red cells, white cells, and platelets.) The platelets are best known for their importance in clotting blood. However, platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in the healing of injuries.
Platelet-Rich Plasma, commonly referred to as PRP, is human blood that is spun down and separated producing a concentration of platelets above normal values. We are able to use sophisticated technology in order to concentrate the platelets and growth factors up to 10 times more powerful than usual. Platelets are not only the clotting cells of our blood, but they also have great potential in enhancing healing of muscle, tendon, and ligaments. Studies suggest that growth factors released by platelets recruit reparative cells, may augment tissue repair, and accelerate soft tissue healing.
PRP has been successfully used in surgery to augment shoulder rotator cuff and Achilles tendon repair. PRP has also shown great promise when injected into chronically injured tendons and when proper healing has not taken place. Many clinical trials are underway to determine the full spectrum of use for PRP. In our practice, we have anecdotally noted promising results when PRP is injected into spinal ligaments, into facet joints, and intervertebral discs when other traditional treatments have failed. This has the potential to heal discs with annual tears.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood must first be drawn from the patient. The platelets are then separated from other blood cells and their concentration is increased. The concentrated platelets are then injected back into the same patient (autologous) precisely where the healing is needed.