There is a lot of interest in the relatively new and emerging area of biologics – plasma rich protein (PRP). It has been made ‘fashionable‘ by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Tiger Woods. The healing of damaged, injured or inflamed tissues involves a complex inflammatory / healing response. Platelets release growth factors at the injured site and these are involved in the healing response. PRP is a high concentration of platelets and therefore growth factors which are involved in the healing response.
What is PRP?
PRP is obtained from the patient by taking a sample of their blood, spinning it down in a centrifuge machine which separates the blood into various components – red cells, white cells and the plasma rich layer. The latter is taken and injected into the patient’s injured region. It contains a high concentration of active platelets which release growth factors involved in the healing of damaged tissues – tendons, ligaments, joints (including degenerative or arthritic joints).
Sample of blood taken from patient
Centrifugation separates blood into different components
PRP (top layer) is taken and injected into damaged tissue
The main advantage is that the substance injected is from the patient him/herself so there is a negligible risk of any adverse reaction. It is only as invasive as having a blood test and is a fairly quick procedure done in the outpatient setting usually.
Studies have confirmed the effectiveness of PRP for tennis elbow, jumper’s knee, plantar fasciitis and osteoarthritis of the knee. Studies around the hand and wrist do exist but it is not as well established. Miss Umarji is currently the Chief Investigator for a major study looking at the effectiveness of PRP for base of thumb arthritis.
In many cases surgery can be avoided if PRP is successful.