Plasma is the clear portion of the blood in which all the other blood components – platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells – travel. Each blood component has a different job.
- Red Blood Cells – responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body
- White Blood Cells – part of the immune system that recognizes and fights bacteria and viruses
- Platelets – responsible of clotting the blood when you have an injury
Platelets have the ability to recognize damaged blood vessels. When you have a cut, platelets are drawn to the injured area where they begin to stick together to form a plug to stop the bleeding. As these platelets group together, they begin to change their shape from a disc to a spiny octopus like structure, entangling more and more platelets. These platelets, along with other proteins released within the body create a hard scab which completely stops the bleeding and protects the injury while it heals. A similar process occurs inside the body when you have a broken bone or injury that bleeds internally.
In addition to blood clotting, platelets also have the ability to release “growth factors,” molecules that communicate with other cells in the body to facilitate new cell production and stimulate healing.
In platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment, blood is drawn from your arm and placed into a centrifuge which spins the blood fast enough to separate it into layers based on weight. Heavier parts (e.g., red blood cells) stay on the bottom. Platelets and white blood cells spin out just above the red blood cell layer. Plasma fluid makes up the top layer. The middle layer containing the concentrated platelets is collected and will be used for the PRP injection.
The main purpose of platelet rich plasma injection is to foster healing where it has not otherwise occurred or to speed up healing as in the case of an acute injury. When an injury occurs in the body, blood flow is needed to supply the necessary cells and nutrients to drive the healing process. There are certain areas in the body that have very limited blood flow. When injured, these areas with poor blood flow are more difficult to heal than other tissues that have good blood flow. This is especially true of tendons and cartilage including meniscus. So, how can you improve healing potential in tissue that does not have good blood flow? One answer is PRP. Injecting concentrated platelets delivers high volumes of growth factors and proteins that signal and drive your body’s healing response.
Many famous athletes — PGA’s Tiger Woods, NBA’s Steph Curry, MLB’s Alex Rodriguez, tennis star Rafael Nadal, and several others — have received PRP for various problems such as sprained knees and chronic tendon injuries. This treatment technique is relatively new in the field of orthopedics, but has been gaining popularity quickly. Dr. Meyers has extensive experience with PRP as he has been providing this treatment to patients since 2007.