Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Can Promote Healing

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Dr. Kaliq Chang with Atlantic Spine Center Offers Tips on this Minimally Invasive Procedure

Dr. Kaliq Chang

Platelet-rich plasma therapy uses a concentrated portion of the patient's own blood to promote long-lasting pain relief by using the body's own healing process.

When high-profile professional athletes return to the playing field after receiving innovative treatments for injuries, weekend athletes, aging baby boomers, and those suffering from chronic pain pay attention. Over the past several years, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been successful in treating a wide range of conditions from lower back pain to stubborn injuries caused by torn ligaments and tendons. “Platelet-rich plasma therapy uses a concentrated portion of the patient's own blood to promote long-lasting pain relief by using the body's own healing process,” says Dr. Kaliq Chang, pain management specialist at the Atlantic Spine Center. “It is safe and easy to administer, making it an attractive option when conservative treatments such as medication and physical therapy have been ineffective.”

What is platelet-rich plasma therapy?
Blood is made up of four components: red blood cells, which deliver oxygen from the lungs to the body's cells and remove carbon dioxide; white blood cells, which fight infection and kill germs; plasma, which is the liquid component and the blood's transport mechanism; and platelets, small cells that bind together at the site of an injury to form a clot and stop bleeding. In addition to their role in healing by stopping bleeding, platelets also release hundreds of proteins called growth factors that play an important role in tissue repair and regeneration. It is this function of platelets that forms the basis of platelet-rich plasma therapy.

“We introduce platelets in five to ten times their normal concentration directly to the site of the injury,” says Dr. Chang. “The areas where soft-tissue injuries occur do not usually get a great deal of blood flow so delivering a highly concentrated measure of healing proteins directly to the site improves the odds of stimulating recovery and generating new tissue.”

Which conditions can be treated with PRP?
Promising results have been seen when PRP is used to treat chronic tendon conditions such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendinitis, and inflammation of the patellar tendon in the knee. It may also be used for acute muscle and ligament injuries, including pulled hamstrings and knee strains, and in surgical repair of the shoulder’s rotator cuff and the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament.

“We've seen lasting improvements in pain and function in patients with early-stage degenerative spinal disc disease,” says Dr. Chang. “The discs have poor blood supply and therefore limited healing potential, making conventional treatments for back pain such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications often ineffective. Intradiscal PRP harnesses the patient's own healing power to improve the health of the disc.”

How is PRP therapy administered?
A small amount of the patient's blood is drawn into a sterile tube which is spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the other components of the blood. The concentrated platelets can be administered during surgery or with a local anesthetic in the doctor's office. When the procedure is performed in the office, patients are observed for a short period and sent home with instructions to use ice, elevation and acetaminophen to relieve the discomfort they may experience for a week or so.

Is PRP therapy safe?
Platelet-rich plasma is autologous, meaning it comes from the patient's own body so there is little risk of rejection or allergic reaction. And if it is injected, there is no incision and little risk of infection or tissue damage.

“We are still learning about the role of the proteins released by the platelets in healing and tissue repair,” Dr. Chang concludes. “This knowledge, along with the detailed information provided by advanced imaging technologies, improves our understanding of injuries and the healing process. We're just beginning to fully understand how new therapies like PRP can promote and accelerate healing and help people of all ages enjoy active lives.”

Atlantic Spine Center is a nationally recognized leader for endoscopic spine surgery with several locations in NJ and NYC.,

Kaliq Chang, MD, is an interventional pain management specialist board-certified in anesthesiology at Atlantic Spine Center.

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