The platelets in your blood play an integral role in your body’s healing process. If you cut yourself, platelets are the tiny, disc-shaped cells that flow to the injury, grow long tentacles, and bind together to form a clot. Technically, they are not considered to be true cells because they lack both a nucleus, which is sometime called the “brain” of a cell, and genes.
As it turns out, these quasi-cells do much more than circulate in your blood and form clots. When they encounter damaged tissue, they initiate the healing process by signaling the need for additional resources — such as extra oxygen and collagen. They have an arsenal of about 300 substances that they secrete to recruit other cells to aid with healing.
They’re basically the “first responders” to an injury.
Because of their ability to promote healing, platelets are used for a range of therapeutic medical purposes as a concentrated preparation called Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). Orthopedic doctors can use PRP as a natural way to enhance the biological regeneration of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bone to treat conditions that typically take months or even years to heal, such as sports injuries, chronic tendon injuries, and knee osteoarthritis.
PRP treatment starts with drawing a small amount of blood. The red and white cells are then separated from your blood plasma with a centrifuge. The plasma, now abundant in platelets, electrolytes, and proteins, is then injected into the affected area.
It’s important to note PRP therapy is different from drugs or surgery. It does not provide immediate pain relief or offer a quick fix. Its purpose is to speed up the body’s own healing process, which may still take weeks or months. In some cases, a second injection is required.
PRP is an outpatient procedure and can be done right here at Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center in our AAAHC-accredited surgical center.
PRP therapy is not FDA approved and therefore not covered by insurance. But it’s not prohibitively expensive. Ask your doctor for more information.