Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) is a relatively new additional to companion animal medicine although its roots run deep in both human medicine and the equine field of veterinary medicine. Recently the uses of PRP have been highlighted by many prominent athletes that have turned to the aid of PRP to help speed recovery after a variety of ligament and tendon injuries, as well as post-surgical repair. PRP was initially developed for use in dentistry as an adjunct to bone healing with complicated jaw fractures and has been used extensively in human orthopedics for fracture repair and healing, as well as for tendon ruptures and chronic arthropathies (i.e., degenerative joint disease) often supplanting the need for invasive surgeries. Other uses in human medicine include non-healing skin wounds and ulcerations such as those seen in diabetic patients and burn patients.
In equine medicine, PRP has been used in a variety of conditions including tendon and ligament tears, chronic non-healing skin wounds, and eye trauma and ulcerations. Numerous studies have attested to the success and validity of PRP as both an adjunctive treatment modality or as a first line treatment in equine medicine.
PRP is in its relative infancy in companion animal medicine but will likely become a mainstream treatment for many conditions especially as the correlates between human and veterinary medicine continue to emerge. To date, only a handful of peer-reviewed studies have evaluated the effects of PRP treatment in dogs but there are numerous projects and studies underway to evaluate to breadth of function and efficacy of PRP in both dogs and cats.
PRP is one of a handful of products termed “Biologics”. Biologics are products derived from the patient’s own body, whether from blood like PRP or from bone marrow and adipocytes (fat cells) such as with stem cell therapy. The basis behind biologics is to use the natural healing products of the body to work in a more focused and concentrated manner then occurs through the natural healing process. By collecting and processing samples from the patient, a “super” concentrate is created of the body’s own healing mechanisms and where it is deliver directly to the site of concern. Take for instance PRP, the process involves collecting a sample of whole blood from the patient (typically 15ml) then using a special centrifuge and syringe system the platelets are separated from the other products in the blood such as white blood cells (which have many known pro-inflammatory and thus delayed healing properties) and red blood cells. Platelets are rich in numerous proteins, in particular platelet growth factors which are responsible for many of the steps necessary for tissue healing, repair and replication. Many of the products contained with PRP also have anti-inflammatory properties.
PRP is an innovative technique using the pet’s own biological properties to enhance and augment the healing process. It is a relatively simple, safe technique with no contraindications and minimal side effects. The procedure can often be performed with either light sedation or no sedation compared to other biologics such as stem cell therapy. It can be used in conjunction with a multimodal approach to treating chronic degenerative joint disorders, post-operatively to help speed up cartilage and bone repair following procedures such as cruciate ligament repair and fracture repairs, and potentially in place of invasive surgical procedures on a case by case basis. Although there are many unanswered questions regarding the full extent of PRPs utility as a medical treatment, the evidence continues to support PRP (and other biologics) to be effective and safe modalities for a multitude of medical conditions.