Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Explained

Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy has taken off among elite professional athletes with painful bruises and money to spend. Dennis Cardone, associate professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU's Langone Medical Center, discusses how PRP works and its effectiveness.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It came out recently that Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees' star third baseman, was treated by a Canadian doctor, a sports medicine specialist who is under investigation because of human growth hormone. Well, the treatment in question did not involve HGH, but a treatment known as PRP, that stands for platelet rich plasma therapy. There's nothing illegal about it. Rodriguez just has to clear all of his medical treatment with team-approved physicians. It seems, though, that PRP has taken off among elite professional athletes with painful bruises and plentiful bucks to spend. Tiger Woods has used it. A couple of Pittsburg Steelers used it.

We found an interview online about PRP that Scientific American did with Dr. Dennis Cardone, who is an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Medical Center in New York. So, Dr. Cardone, we've called you up to find out more about this. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. DENNIS CARDONE (Orthopedic Surgeon, NYU Medical Center): Well, thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: And first: in a nutshell, briefly, what is PRP?

Dr. CARDONE: What PRP is, we take blood out of the arm of a patient or athlete, whoever is receiving the PRP therapy. And we take that blood and we then spin it down in a special type of centrifuge, and what that does is it concentrates the platelets. And then with that concentrated platelets, that's what we use to inject into an area or problem area, or area of pathology. The thought or the theory behind PRP is that by taking this aggregate or concentration of platelets, we are enhancing the body's healing response.

SIEGEL: And is there actually research to show that this, in fact, works? Or is it something that people who have so much money to spend will do, it doesn't really matter if it works or not?

Dr. CARDONE: There are some studies out, but let's just say that the evidence is not as good as we would like it to be. So, we'd like to see more of the double-blind randomized control, better-evidenced based studies. We have some other studies not as good which do show some positive effects from PRP, but again not as good evidence for it as we'd like to see.

SIEGEL: For those for whom it does work, I mean, have you come across a plausible theory for how it works? But what it's actually - what these platelets are actually doing?

Dr. CARDONE: Right, so contained within the platelets are these growth factors, and these growth factors are what the body used to heal all tissue-type injuries. By taking this concentrated platelets, we enhance the body's, or help the body's healing response.

SIEGEL: Some people speak of this because of the centrifuge as platelets spinning. That's another phrase I've heard to describe it. I gather it's had other applications, but its phenomenon as a sports medicine therapy is pretty recent.

Dr. CARDONE: It is recent. So, it's been around actually for many years. Dentistry has used it, and then it actually, in the orthopedic field, the spine surgeons were using it a few years back. And it wasn't until the Super Bowl of last year, there were two of the players that received PRP therapy, and they had a good response from it and then it really took off.

SIEGEL: Is this case of a therapy that has become more popular because the Pittsburg Steelers won the Super Bowl, had they lost perhaps there wouldn't have been so much demand for it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CARDONE: You know, that possibly might be right, but in defense of PRP therapy, it's certainly something that we never had to offer a patient or athlete before. So, we never had anything that we could safely inject into a tendon. So, this is the first time with some of these chronic tendon problems that - often patients would fail all the types of conservative therapy that we had to offer, this is the first thing short of taking them to the operating room where we can actually inject or - and/or kind of manipulate the tendon in an office setting.

SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Cardone, thanks a lot for talking with us about the PRP.

Dr. CARDONE: It's my pleasure thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Dr. Dennis Cardone, orthopedic surgeon at NYU Medical Center in New York City talking about PRP, that's platelet rich plasma therapy.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.