Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has grabbed headlines in recent years for its role in helping some of the biggest sporting stars return to play following injury, such as golfer Tiger Woods
Professional and amateur athletes seek PRP to address many orthopaedic conditions, including injuries to the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. PRP is made by placing a sample of a patient’s own blood in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets, which are cells rich in growth factors. The PRP is then injected back into the injury to stimulate tissue growth and healing.
Use of PRP has proliferated in recent years, especially in sports medicine where injured athletes are eager to return to their sport. Despite its rising popularity, PRP remains a costly treatment because little scientific evidence has supported its use – until now.
A paper in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) offers the first evidence-based recommendations for use of PRP in orthopaedic care. The authors determined which musculoskeletal conditions PRP is successful in treating and where more research is needed.
PRP does not involve any drugs or chemicals. “PRP is completely natural and uses the patient’s own blood platelets to enhance the body’s biological healing process,” said Michael Terry, MD, co-author on the paper and an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Feinberg School. “There are very few documented complications associated with PRP; it’s safe and has shown good results for many conditions.”
The authors completed a comprehensive evaluation of PRP research from around the world to develop their recommendations.
“While evidence suggests that PRP improves tissue healing, we also found that success varies depending on the preparation method and composition of the PRP, medical condition, location on the body and tissue type,” said Wellington Hsu, MD, the lead author on the paper.
The authors concluded that current evidence supports PRP as a treatment for conditions including arthritis in the ankle and tennis elbow and that injecting PRP during ACL reconstruction contributes to healing. When it comes to using PRP for osteoarthritis of the knee, the authors were encouraged by early research, but recommended further study. They also suggested further study was needed in regards to Achilles tendon repair, rotator cuff injuries and other chronic tendinopathies aside from the elbow. PRP is not beneficial in bone healing applications and should not be used in spinal fusion or other bone grafting procedures, the authors concluded.
“We’re hopeful our findings can serve as a roadmap on how and when PRP is appropriate in orthopaedic care,” said Terry. “Now that we have a better understanding of when this therapy is effective, we can tailor it to other applications. ”
With scientific support now available, the costly treatment could eventually become more attainable for patients in the future.