PRP treatment is a medical procedure established nearly 40 years ago. In the following years, delighted with this new, minimally invasive procedure, doctors tried to apply it to a wide range of conditions in sports medicine, orthopedic surgery, dental and cosmetic surgery, etc. After the initial enthusiasm, people realized that this procedure is not magical; it has some limitations.
What is PRP Exactly?
PRP (Platelet-Rich-Plasma) is, as the name says, plasma very rich in platelets, about five to ten times richer than normal circulating plasma. But what is plasma at all? Our blood consists roughly of two parts—the liquid part, which is plasma and the solid part, which is made up of blood cells—red blood cells (erythrocytes which carry oxygen), white blood cells (leukocytes which are a part of our immune system) and platelets (thrombocytes which participate in blood coagulation or clotting). So why platelets, of all the cells in our body? They are not even true cells like red or white blood cells. They are just tiny partial cells that originate from the bone marrow, circulating through our body and preventing us from bleeding to death when we get injured. It turns out that platelets, other than helping the blood to clot, carry growth factors: proteins essential for wound healing.
How is Platelet-Rich-Plasma Made?
The basic idea is fairly simple. First, the blood is drawn from a patient. Then a part of that blood is put into a centrifuge which separates the platelets from other blood constituents. These platelets are then collected and mixed with the remaining blood and voilà: you get a platelet-rich plasma that can then be injected into damaged or inflamed tissue.
How Does it Work?
What we know for now is that growth factors abundant in PRP can potentially accelerate the healing process. The main problem is that this effect varies, so research is underway to try to determine the exact mechanism of PRP and the conditions that can influence this mechanism.
Which Medical Conditions Can Be Treated With PRP?
There are a variety of medical conditions that can be treated with PRP, but with very different levels of effectiveness. The most common conditions are: acute ligament and muscle injuries, nerve injuries, cardiac muscle injuries, chronic tendon injuries, osteoarthritis (degeneration of articular cartilage that causes severe joint pain), bone fractures and androgenic alopecia (baldness). PRP was even used in oral and plastic surgery, but the effects of it were negligible. It is important to say that PRP is effective enough only in the treatment of acute ligament and muscle injuries as well as chronic tendon injuries. Benefits were observed regarding osteoarthritis, such as a short-term clinical improvement (pain relief), but without long-term success. Other clinical studies for other medical conditions did not back up all the enthusiastic claims about PRP therapy effects.
There are many new procedures of biological therapy in medicine nowadays, and PRP is one of them. Although promising, there is not sufficient clinical evidence that PRP is effective for a wide range of medical conditions. Most published studies show that PRP is safe to use, but more research needs to be done in order to determine the overall benefits as well as the potential harm of this therapy. If you are considering a PRP treatment, the safest way is to consult your doctor first. He will be able to give you proper advice based on current medical guidelines, so you can make the right decision about your health.