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article imageWhat is platelet-rich plasma therapy?

By Tim Sandle     Aug 10, 2014 in Health
Athletes and Hollywood celebrities (like Kobe Bryant, Angelina Jolie, Courtney Love and Tiger Woods) are increasingly turning to platelet-rich plasma (or PRP) therapy to improve their health and turn back the clock. What is this new craze?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is blood plasma that has been enriched with platelets. As a concentrated source of platelets, PRP contains (and releases through a process called 'degranulation') several different growth factors and other cytokines that stimulate healing of bone and soft tissue.
PRP has been investigated and used as a clinical tool for several types of medical treatments, including nerve injury, tendinitis, osteoarthritis, cardiac muscle injury, bone repair and regeneration, plastic surgery, and oral surgery. PRP has also received attention in the popular media as a result of its use in treating sports injuries in professional athletes.
As to the process, PRP can be carefully injected into the injured area. For example, in Achilles tendonitis, a condition commonly seen in runners and tennis players, the heel cord can become swollen, inflamed, and painful. A mixture of PRP and local anesthetic can be injected directly into this inflamed tissue. Afterwards, the pain at the area of injection may actually increase for the first week or two, and it may be several weeks before the patient feels a beneficial effect.
Perhaps for these reasons, the treatment has proved popular with movie starts and leading athletes. In addition to the list of big-names, a number of less well-off people also using this non-surgical growth treatment to treat hip/ankle/shoulder injuries and battle ailments such as arthritis and disc degeneration.
Here is one person, from a video on YouTube, describing the treatment:
However, does PRP work? It would seem that the jury is currently out. Whilst some clinical trials have produced interesting results, the overall effects have not yet been confirmed in large-scale controlled clinical trials. For example, according to one literature review, clinical use of PRP for nerve injury and sports medicine has produced "promising" but "inconsistent" results in early trials. Furthermore, in addition to sports, some concern exists as to whether PRP treatments violate anti-doping rules, such as those maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
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