In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in regenerative medicine using platelet rich plasma. Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP is a solution that is obtained from your own blood containing concentrated growth factor proteins like TGF-beta, IGF, PDGF, and HGF. TGF-beta is probably the most important one for cartilage regeneration.
PRP has about 4 times the concentration of platelets found in blood and is obtained by spinning down your own blood then adding a calcium to stimulate clotting, which in turn causes the release of these important growth factors. This solution is then injected into the painful joint or tendon sheath to exert its regenerative effect.
In medicine, we like to give scientific evidence for the things we do. Currently, there is the best or level 1 evidence for PRP injections to treat conditions like tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. There is weaker but positive evidence for intra-articular knee injection of PRP giving good short term (1 year) relief of pain as compared to steroids or hyaline injections. There are also numerous case reports of PRP being used to treat Sacroiliac pain.
Stay tuned because regenerative medicine is one of the most promising and fastest growing areas of medicine today. Much research is currently being done with both PRP and mesenchymal stem cells aimed at treating other painful and diseased organs. Cardiac tissue, degenerative vertebral discs, multiple sclerosis even pulmonary conditions are all areas of study focus.
As evidence mounts, PRP could be covered by insurance plans. Please ask your provider for additional information to see if this treatment is for you.
Matthew F. McCarty, MD