Humans and horses have remarkable abilities to heal themselves. Stem Cell therapy, Extra Cellular Matrix therapy (A Cell), Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and IRAP all work in different ways to stimulate healing. All, except the A Cell, are derived from the patients own body. These autologous (body’s own) therapies all concentrate potent healing materials at the site of the injury therapy significantly accelerating the rate and improving the quality of healing.
Platelet rich plasma is the focus of this discussion. Platelets have long been understood as central to the clotting mechanism at the sites of injuries. What was not as well understood is their role in recruiting cells and materials needed for tissue repair. Platelets release multiple types of ‘growth factors’ and other elements that signal the body to send help. PRP is a method of concentrating these platelets using the patient’s own blood. The PRP can then be injected directly into the affected tissue. FVEP veterinarians have used PRP for treatment of soft tissue injuries, ligaments and tendons. PRP has applications in skin and bone healing as well.
After determining the appropriate diagnosis and deciding that PRP would be beneficial, we set up an appointment for a stable call. Blood is drawn from the patient’s own aseptically prepared jugular vein and mixed with an anticoagulant to keep it from clotting. We transfer the blood/anticoagulant mixture into special tubes which are then spun in a large centrifuge. Each tube yields about 3cc of concentrated plasma. The concentrated plasma must be used within 4 hours, although freezing techniques may be developed at some point.
This approach has little chance of producing rejection because it is from the horse’s own body. There may be some transient inflammation. The cost is a fraction of the cost of Stem Cell therapy, though both can be used in combination. The procedure can be done right on the farm as long as it is planned in advance. It does not take a long time to do and is well tolerated by the horses. The benefits include accelerated healing of tissues such as skin, bone, tendon and ligament. The PRP produces growth factors which improve the blood supply, improve bone density and tendon strength, reduce pain, and reduce the time for tissues to mature. The concentrated platelets recruit other cells such as stem cells which speed up healing and improve the quality of the resulting repair. This approach is not needed for many types of tissue healing, but in more serious cases it can provide a major benefit. If there are inquiries or questions regarding PRP therapy, please contact our office.