Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a form of regenerative medicine currently used to treat sports injuries, osteoarthritis, various musculoskeletal issues, hair loss, and even aesthetic issues. The therapy has proven effective for a lot of patients suffering from a variety of conditions. But it is not right for everyone, and it does not always work.
The efficacy of PRP therapy is partly related to how patients respond, the conditions they are seeking treatment for, and the severity of those conditions. Another part of the efficacy question is related to the clinicians who actually perform the procedures: the equipment they use and the training they have received.
We must never forget equipment and training when discussing efficacy. If a poorly-trained surgeon botches a procedure that causes life-altering consequences for the patient, we do not blame the procedure itself. We blame the surgeon and his or her poor training. PRP therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures deserve the same consideration. Attempting to determine efficacy without addressing equipment training is both unproductive and intellectually dishonest.
PRP Equipment and Supplies
Offering PRP therapy requires a doctor to have certain equipment and supplies on hand. Apex Biologix, a Utah company that supplies doctors, says that there are several considerations that come with purchasing the necessary equipment and supplies.
For example, quality is a big concern for the plastic containers doctors use to hold PRP serum. Lower quality plastics may contain non-polymeric components that allow for the contamination of PRP serum. Such contamination is not dangerous, but it does reduce the efficacy of the treatment. It is worth paying more for higher quality containers made with higher quality plastics.
Another concern, according to Apex Biologix, is the centrifuge a doctor chooses for his or her practice. Centrifuges are the devices that concentrate both platelets and plasma prior to injection. Believe it or not, all centrifuges do not work the same. Some generate better results than others. A high-quality centrifuge can produce a highly concentrated serum that does what doctors and their patients expect.
Using the best equipment and supplies money can buy does not guarantee the efficacy of PRP therapy. There is also a question of physician training. How a doctor learns to process blood and inject the resulting serum makes an enormous difference. Poor training typically leads to less efficacious treatments.
To begin with, understand that doctors use certain additives with PRP material to prevent the platelets from beginning to clot before injection. A doctor’s choice of additives is important. Moreover, what a doctor learns about those additives during training will affect his or her choice.
Some additives, like steroids for example, limit the effectiveness of PRP. Well-trained doctors know that the best additives are saline water and epinephrine. Both can inhibit clotting without reducing the quality of the PRP material.
Doctors also have to be properly trained in the injection process. Why? Because the PRP material will only have maximum impact if it is injected into precisely the right location. When treating a painful knee, for example, the doctor cannot just choose any location near the knee for the injection. The PRP material has to make it to the site of the injury causing the pain.
Some doctors use ultrasonic imaging to ensure their injections are in the right location. Those who don’t, really should. Ultrasonic imaging can make the difference between a successful treatment and a waste of the patient’s time and money.
Equipment and training do influence the efficacy of PRP therapy. To not acknowledge it is to blame PRP therapy itself as being ineffective.