What’s the Difference Between Platelet Rich Plasma and Cell Based Therapies?
Regenerative medicine therapies are increasingly being used for people with painful orthopedic conditions. Commonly used orthobiologics include platelet rich plasma (PRP) and other cell based therapies.
Platelet rich plasma therapy includes the concentration of platelet cells from a patient’s own blood. These cells deliver hundreds of growth factors which facilitate the body’s ability to control inflammation, decrease pain and promote tissue healing.
Adult Stem Cells are found in every tissue in the body. A patient’s own bone marrow and fat tissues contains precursor cells called mesenchymal stem cells that have the ability to develop into new cells and repair damaged tissues. These cells also reduce pain and inflammation.
So What’s the Difference?
Many patients ask, “If both platelet rich plasma and adult stem cell therapy help with healing and inflammation, why choose one over the other?”
The fact of the matter is each treatment offers unique benefits. An experienced regenerative medicine specialist knows that several key factors are important when determining which treatment will provide the best outcome for you.
These considerations include:
· The severity of the medical condition being treated (e.g. mild, moderate or severe)
· The location of the injury (e.g. spine or joint)
· The type of tissue requiring treatment (e.g. bone, tendon, cartilage, disc or muscle)
· The patient’s age and overall health, including any other medical conditions.
Knowing How PRP is Different Than Cell Based Therapies
Many clinics claim to offer stem cells or platelet rich plasma treatments, however, the effectiveness of these treatments and experience level of the physicians varies widely from one clinic to another.
· Treatments that use donated tissues such as umbilical cord blood, amniotic tissue and exosomes are not permitted under current FDA guidelines. These products are NOT to be used in orthopedic conditions, because they have not been tested for safety or efficacy.
Only autologous biologics such as your own blood, bone marrow and minimally manipulated fat are compliant with current FDA guidelines for safety and efficacy.
· Dose matters. The number of cells obtained is determined by the method used. The best results are achieved when your physician uses advanced tissue processing methods to produce highly concentrated platelet rich plasma or mesenchymal stem cells. It takes your physician years to master the skill of cell harvesting for maximal benefit.
· To ensure the safe, effective and comfortable delivery of cells into the damaged tissues, a fellowship trained physician should use advanced image guidance using diagnostic ultrasound or x-ray (fluoroscopy). Physician assistants, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors and nurses do not complete this level of training.
When considering treatment with regenerative medicine, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of the different options. Be aware that treatments vary among different clinics and outcomes are determined by physician experience and the methods used to deliver these treatments. Be sure to ask your physician about their training, experience and whether or not they document their patient outcomes.
When done properly, cell based therapies significantly help patients to heal quickly and completely allowing them to enjoy an active life without pain.
Drs. Christopher J. Rogers and Mary A. Ambach of San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group have successfully treated thousands of patients with platelet rich plasma and other cell based therapies for more than a decade. Their facility in Carlsbad contains the most advanced Regenerative Medicine technology in San Diego and offers same day treatments with the highest documented levels of safety and efficacy.
The liquid portion of blood called plasma has been used for several years to help patients facing life-threatening conditions such as immune deficiency disorders and organ transplantation. Because it has helped treat so many chronic and rare diseases, it has been referred to as “the gift of life.”[i]
More recently, physicians have discovered that a patient’s own plasma and its’ cells can help expedite the recovery from orthopedic injuries. Platelet rich plasma treatments, known as PRP, use the healing power of platelets to harness growth factors and other proteins that are essential for healing.
How Platelet Rich Plasma Treatment Works
Blood is comprised of red blood cells, white blood cells,platelets and plasma. The plasma contains hormones, electrolytes and nutrients that are needed to nourish cells during the healing process.
During platelet rich plasma treatment, the patient’s own blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge machine where the platelets are separated and concentrated. This results in a PRP solution that contains up to 10 times more platelets than that typically found in blood.[ii] With its super-charged healing capabilities, platelet rich plasma can be used to treat a number of orthopedic conditions, including:
· Joint arthritis (knee, shoulder, hip, thumb or spine)
· Injured tendons like rotator cuff tendon, Tennis elbow and Achilles tendon
· Ligament sprains in the wrist, ankle or sacroiliac joints
· Carpal tunnel syndrome
· Degenerated discs, mild spinal stenosis and sciatica
Not All PRP Treatments Are the Same
When it comes to platelet rich plasma treatment, one size does not fit all. Several factors can influence the success rate of treatment:
· The patient must receive an accurate diagnosis.
· Image guidance with ultrasound or fluoroscopy (x-ray) for targeted delivery to the injured tissues is necessary.
· The PRP formulation must be customized to the specific injury being treated.
· The initial injury severity must be considered.
When administered appropriately and in the right formulation for the specific injury, most patients begin to experience results within four to eight weeks after platelet rich plasma treatment. About 10% of patients will feel relief within days.
PRP treatments are performed on an out-patient basis in the physician’s office. There is no need for hospitalization or lengthy rehabilitation. The entire procedure takes less than an hour and patients may typically resume normal activity within days.
Dr. Christopher Rogers of San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group performed one of the first PRP treatments in San Diego in 2009. He and Dr. Mary Ambach are experts in the field of regenerative therapy for orthopedic injuries. They have successfully treated thousands of patients with PRP and other orthobiologics.
[i] Donating Plasma: What is Plasma
[ii] OrthoInfo: Platelet Rich Plasma
The human body is programmed to heal. Whether it is recovering from a small scrape or from major surgery the body’s initial response to any kind of injury or trauma is to kick into healing mode.
But sometimes it can use a little help. And that is what cell-based therapies offer.
How Cell-Based Therapy Works
Cell-based therapy assists the body to heal injured tissues. This is especially useful for the treatment of injured tendons, ligaments and joints. Cell-based therapy delivers targeted healing factors that are taken from the patient’s own cells to boost the body’s ability to speed healing and recovery.
There are several treatments options available, and each one offers unique benefits that enable your physician to choose the best option for you.
- Platelet Rich Plasma therapy concentrates platelet cells from the blood and delivers them to the injured tissues. These cells are rich in growth factors that are needed to initiate the body’s healing and repair processes. Using a patient’s own blood, the platelets are separated and concentrated. They are then placed into the injured area to boost healing.
- Prolotherapy delivers a targeted solution of concentrated dextrose and local anesthetic to injured ligaments, tendons or joints. The body responds to the dextrose solution as an irritant which, triggers healing responses that had stalled prematurely.
- Stem Cells are found throughout the body and are activated when an injury occurs. Tissue harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow or adipose (fat) contain mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They activate healing by producing molecules that direct other cells in the area to form new blood vessels, awaken resident progenitors and stimulate new tissue growth. Cells can be obtained from several sources, however, only bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue are FDA-compliant for orthopedic indications. Umbilical cord blood products are not approved by the FDA and not supported by clinical research for orthopedic use.
What to Expect While Recovering from Therapy
Unlike major surgery, cell-based therapies do not require hospitalization. They are performed in our office procedure suite with local anesthetic. Recovery usually takes less than 4 days from these minimally invasive procedures.
There may be some swelling and discomfort in the injected area, but these symptoms typically lessen within a few days. Patients begin physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion within the first few weeks. Depending on the extent of the original injury, as well as the specific treatment used, some patients are able to resume their normal activity levels just days after their procedures.
Staying well hydrated and following a nutrient-rich diet are key to overall wellness and are especially important before and after these treatments since the body’s requires high-quality fuel to power their healing efforts.
San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group is a leader in regenerative medicine therapies and offers a great variety of treatment options depending upon each patient’s unique needs. With decades of experience in the field of minimally invasive interventional treatments, Drs. Christopher J. Rogers and Mary A. Ambach are experts in the field of regenerative medicine. They serve as faculty members and lecturers at national and international medical conferences and serve on the board of directors for several national regenerative medicine organizations.
Colleen is an active patient in her 60s who suffered from a partial tendon tear after a traumatic injury to her ankle. Her podiatrist placed her in a boot for weeks, but she continued to have pain and her injury was not healed. She consulted with Dr. Mary Ambach and was successfully treated with Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP).
Dr. Ambach is a very gracious and supportive doctor. I have had an amazing experience with her and am on the way to 100% recovery.
Partial Tendon Tear Success Story:
Great bakers know that when it comes to delivering the best treats and sweets, you have to carefully measure your ingredients.
The same applies to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. The measured amount, the dosage, of concentrated platelets and other cells in the plasma, must be customized to each patient’s specific condition to achieve the best outcomes.
Platelet rich plasma uses highly concentrated platelets to speed up the healing process, decrease inflammation and stimulate tissue regeneration. See our blog on PRP. As we go in-depth in the study of PRP, we now know that determining the best PRP treatment is not just about how much platelets are in the injection.
Not All PRP are the same
There are other factors that need to be considered to obtain the best PRP treatment. There are other other cells in the PRP, specifically the red blood cells and white blood cells that need to be adjusted depending on the patient’s condition. Platelets release growth factors that facilitate the healing process. The timing and pattern of growth factor release and the individual’s cellular response to growth factors may vary. This can affect outcome and should be thought out in determining PRP treatment. There is a wide variety of methods used to harvest, process and deliver PRP therapy. The resulting platelet count, cell composition and PRP quality are highly variable and can affect clinical outcome.
Only physicians truly experienced in using PRP know how to adjust the dosing appropriately. Joints, tendons, ligament and nerves require their own specific PRP formulation. Imagine if a doctor writes the incorrect kind and amount of antibiotic to treat your specific infection. Patients should make sure that they do their homework in seeking skilled and experienced physicians providing their PRP treatment. These physicians should not only know how to provide the best customized PRP for your need, they should also be adept in the delivery of PRP therapy. These physicians should have advanced training in diagnostic ultrasound or fluoroscopic (xray) guided procedures to make the procedure safe, comfortable and effective.
Not all PRP dosing is the same. Patients should choose physicians who have the knowledge and expertise to ensure they get the right kind of PRP for their orthopedic condition.
Dr. Christopher J. Rogers and Dr Mary A. Ambach are experts and key leaders in the field of regenerative medicine. They are board certified doctors with over 20 years of combined research and clinical experience in platelet rich plasma and other cell based therapies.