Scour your favorite online news sources for articles relating to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, and you are likely to find dozens of articles with titles indicating that the therapy is something new and/or amazing. PRP therapy is amazing for sure, but it is nothing new. It has actually been around for decades.
Back in the 1970s, researchers in Italy began using PRP therapy to promote wound healing following open-heart surgery. The success of the Italian procedure led to its spread across Europe and eventually North America. For more than 25 years, it has been an approved procedure for post-surgery wound healing in the U.S.
The efficacy of PRP therapy for wound healing has encouraged a steady stream of research intended to discover whether the therapy has other applications or not. Since the mid-1990s, science has been looking at PRP therapy for a range of applications covering everything from cosmetic surgery to pain management to dentistry.
PRP Therapy in the U.S.
PRP therapy is more widely used in Europe than it is here in the U.S. Perhaps that is due to its European roots. At any rate, PRP therapy here is somewhat limited thanks to how the FDA regulates autologous material for medical treatments. By the way, autologous material is biologic material taken directly from the person being treated.
Apex Biologix, a Utah company that trains doctors in PRP therapy procedures, says it is most commonly used for the following:
- Pain Management – People suffering from chronic pain as a result of osteoarthritis or musculoskeletal injuries often find relief through PRP therapy. The therapy helps to encourage natural healing and tissue regeneration, which can in turn help relieve pain.
- Osteoarthritis – As an extension of pain management, PRP therapy is used to treat the damage caused by osteoarthritis. PRP therapy may not lead to complete healing, but it can help slow down progression and alleviate pain.
- Sports Injuries – Sports injuries are another prime candidate for PRP therapy. Everything from torn muscles to damaged ligaments and tendons can be treated. The procedure is especially popular with baseball pitchers who would otherwise undergo Tommy John surgery.
- Hair Growth – PRP therapy has shown to be effective in some people suffering from male pattern baldness and alopecia. PRP therapy promotes the growth of hair by stimulating the affected follicles.
- Aesthetic Applications – Because one of the functions of blood platelets is to help create connective tissue, PRP therapy is believed to be effective for certain aesthetic applications. Doctors use it to address things such as age-related wrinkles and the loss of skin elasticity.
How the Procedure Works
Since PRP therapy has been around for so long, the regenerative medicine community has developed some standard procedures for the applications listed above. Treatment begins by drawing blood from the person being treated. That blood is then processed in a centrifuge to concentrate platelets. The resulting product is a plasma product rich in both platelets and growth factors. It is injected into the site of the injury to promote the natural healing process.
Depending on a why PRP therapy is being utilized, some patients might require multiple treatments before noticing any relief. However, there are no standards in this regard. It is up to doctors and their patients to determine how many treatments are needed and how often these are received.
Despite what you may have heard, PRP therapy is not new. It is a proven therapy that has been in use across the world since the 1970s. Only now are we beginning to understand the extent of its applications.