Platelet-rich plasma treatment, or PRP as it is sometimes referred to, is a form of regenerative medicine that can harness the ability of the body to heal itself and amplify the natural growth factors your body uses to heal tissue. It is relatively new to the world of medicine so you’re going to get mixed feelings about it depending on who you ask. Regardless, it has become very popular in dermatology and sport science.
To understand PRP, you need to first know what platelets and plasma are. Plasma is the liquid part of blood and is mostly composed of water and proteins. Its main function is to provide a medium through which blood cells and platelets circulate through the body. Platelets, on the other hand, are cells that facilitate the clotting of blood in case of any injuries and other necessary growth healing functions. Platelet-rich plasma is therefore liquid blood with a high concentration of platelets and platelet-rich plasma treatment is the use of a patient’s own platelets to speed up the healing process of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints.
How is PRP Prepared?
Platelet-rich plasma treatment is mainly administered through injections. PRP injections are prepared by taking one or multiple (depending on quantity needed) tubes of the patients’ blood and running it through a centrifuge. This is a device that spins the sample at high speeds to the point that the blood sample separates into different components, one of which is PRP. The activated platelets are then injected directly into the injured or diseased body tissue. This releases growth factors that stimulate and increase the number of reparative cells the patients’ body produces. Since the injection has to be precise in order to reap the best results, ultrasound imaging can sometimes be used to guide the injection.
Benefits of PRP Treatment
Hair GrowthPRP injections help to reduce the inflammation that causes hair loss. A study from 2015 reported that males who received PRP treatment grew more hair in terms of volume and density compared to the men who did not receive the treatment.
- Tissue Healing
A study back in 2014 that analyzed the cases of 28 athletes found that three rounds of PRP injections reduced the extent and intensity of symptoms in the participants with a knee injury called chronic patellar tendinopathy. Another one from 2018 further showed that a Platelet Rich Plasma procedure can help to reduce pain and promote healing on injured ligaments and tendons.
- Reduces Inflammation
PRP has shown that it can help reduce inflammation, especially with arthritis cases, but treating arthritis is very controversial. While researchers claim that it is very helpful in relieving pain in patients, the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation strongly recommends against the use of PRP in treating knee or hip osteoarthritis.
Some questions have been left unanswered concerning the benefits of PRP treatment, but extensive research should provide the answers and give a clear picture as to when the treatment is appropriate and when it isn’t.
What is PRP Treatment Used for?
PRP treatment is used for various conditions, but the two most popular ones are musculoskeletal pain and injuries and cosmetic procedures.
- Tendon, Ligament, Muscle and Joint Injuries
As mentioned earlier, PRP is quite popular in sports science, where it is used to treat injuries on athletes. For example, chronic tendon injuries such as tennis elbow or jumper’s knee can take a significantly long time to heal. Therefore, adding PRP shots to one’s treatment regimen can help to stimulate the healing process, decrease pain and enable a return to activities sooner. This works by repairing the damaged parts significantly faster to a point where they resume full functionality in about half or a quarter the time they would have if the patient were to rely on natural healing.
- Post Surgical Healing
PRP was first used to speed up healing after jaw or plastic surgery. The working principle is the same as with tendon and muscle injuries. When the platelet-rich plasma is injected into the body, it works on repairing the worn-out tissues faster than if the tissues were left to heal on their own. Since it was first used, PRP treatment has helped to significantly reduce the healing time after surgery, thus enabling patients to go back to their regular routines sooner than expected.
Osteoarthritis is mainly caused by wearing out of cartilage and ligaments around the joint area. PRP is helpful in this scenario because it helps the ligaments regenerate, thus mitigating the effect caused by the wearing out. As a result, the levels of inflammation are reduced which effectively reduces the pain.
- Hair Loss
PRP treatment can be used in treating male pattern baldness. This applies to both the prevention of hair loss and promoting new hair growth. PRP can also aid in the stimulation of hair growth after hair transplants.
- Skin Rejuvenation
Although there still isn’t enough research to provide all the answers, PRP injections can sometimes be used as an anti-aging treatment. However, evidence is very little to show that it can reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging.
It is worth noting that research on platelet-rich plasma treatment is still ongoing and continues to grow so its full potential hasn’t been realized yet. Experts reckon that as new information is discovered, the range of PRP treatment will continue to increase, and sooner or later its application will be widespread, providing solutions to problems that human beings have been experiencing for a very long time.
The platelet-rich plasma procedure is relatively low-risk and doesn’t result in any significant side effects unless it is a special case. The only possible effects might be irritation, bleeding, and mild pain around the injected area which is common with most injection treatments and should clear up within no time. However, since it involves drawing blood, proper hydration and eating prior to receiving the injection is important to avoid any dizziness.
In theory, PRP is a ground-breaking model of treatment that will no doubt help a lot of people with injuries and musculoskeletal pain. However, it is important to consult with your primary physician if you’re considering getting the treatment.