Platelet-rich plasma injection, or PRP, is a developing medical procedure that has been shown to be beneficial to patients suffering from both acute and chronic tissue injuries. While PRP has its critics, it is helping many patients find relief, according to a University of Alberta study earlier this year.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy has long been a popular treatment among professional athletes but has recently been used to treat non-athletes suffering from tendonitis and other soft tissue conditions, giving patients back their ability to do everyday tasks and enjoy activities again.
The study observed a group of non-athlete patients between the ages of 35 and 60, with rotator cuff tendon pain or inflammation. The test group of the study received regular PRP injections. Results after receiving PRP injections showed patients had a decrease in pain compared to the test group that did not receive PRP injections. PRP receivers also experienced an increase in shoulder mobility and range of motion. Additionally, patients who had tears in their rotator cuff also saw the size of their tears decreased.
Doctors and scientists have known for many years that platelets are the key to the healing process. The UA study is the first of its kind, however, to show evidence that platelet-rich plasma injection therapy can change how tissue structurally heals.
One doctor using PRP injection therapy is Dr. Bill Johnson, M.D… Johnson uses PRP injection as part of the fat transfer procedures he performs in his Dallas, Texas, medical clinic. Johnson collects blood from his patients before the fat transfer procedure. “We take 60 ccs of blood from the patient as part of the pre-op process,” he explains. The blood is placed in a centrifuge and spun to separate out its components. “Once the components are isolated, they are remixed to get PRP,” says Johnson. The PRP is then reintroduced into the body along with refined fat cells during the fat transfer.
For some skeptics, it may seem that using PRP is unnecessary – it is the patient’s own blood, after all. Johnson explains why taking the extra steps to collect blood and create PRP are beneficial. “Platelets contain a significant amount of growth factors. Growth factors are the chemical messengers that our cells use to talk to each other. Adding platelets and therefore growth factors speeds and amplifies the healing process. In the case of fat transfer, studies show a 20-30% increase in survival for transferred fat cells when PRP is added.”
Platelets contain over 300 different growth factors. These factors are chemical messengers that signal the body to dispatch cells to begin repairs and defend the body from infection. Some of the body’s tissues are not easily repaired or regenerated, so PRP injection therapy can help those cells by giving them a boost.
Some of the growth factors found in PRP include a platelet-derived growth factor, also called PDGF, which stimulates new cell and blood vessel growth and promotes healing. Another type of growth factor is the epidermal growth factor, or EGF, which promotes new blood cells and cell maturation. Other growth factors, like the fibroblast growth factor known as FGF, encourage collagen generation and multiplication of the cells that make up the blood vessels.
When platelet-rich plasma is used during fat transfer procedures, it increases blood flow to the transfer site by signaling stem cells found within the fat to call for the body to send more blood to the area of transfer. This additional blood helps facilitate healing. “PRP also helps boost the survival of the fat that is being transferred,” says Johnson. Johnson sees an 85-90 percent survival rate of the fat cells he harvests. This fat is used during cosmetic procedures performed by Johnson like natural breast augmentation, buttock augmentation, and facial fat transfer.