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Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is derived from blood that is drawn from an equine patient and processed with a centrifuge, which separates a solution’s less dense components from its heavier ones. This process distills a portion of the blood to a platelet concentration level that is five times richer than regular blood. At the same time, it helps to remove both red and white blood cells from the platelet rich part of the plasma. Plasma containing this concentrated level of platelets provides an abundance of growth factors, which enhance access of healthy inflammatory cells to the area of tissue injury, formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), formation of new connective tissue (fibroplasia) and regeneration of skin (re-epithelialization). Because the patient’s own blood is used to make the specialized plasma, known as an autologous process, there is no risk of the treatment being rejected, as it might be if the blood had been provided by a donor.
PRP therapy is recommended for both recent tendon and ligament injuries and those injuries that have not healed using traditional rest and controlled exercise. We recommend injection of a recent injury 2-4 weeks after occurrence. The procedure is done in the standing horse under sedation and local nerve block. Whole blood is obtained from the horse, blood is processed, and the PRP is injected into the tendon or ligament injury. Re-examination with ultrasonography is conducted every 30 days over the first two months, then every 60 to 90 days during the remaining healing period. In most cases a single PRP injection is needed to result in complete healing of the injury.
We also recommend PRP therapy for horses with severe joint disease (osteoarthritis or osteochondrosis) that are no longer responding to traditional joint therapy (injection with hyaluronic acid and corticosteroids). We recommend three treatments at two-week intervals. The PRP is obtained in the manner described above and injected directly into the joint. During the initial appointment, enough blood is drawn and PRP harvested such that we can store subsequent doses for each individual horse for repeat injections.
Our PRP machine, the Magellan Autologous Platelet Separator, made by Arteriocyte Medical Systems also has the capability to be used to harvest bone marrow-derived stem cells for wound healing and soft tissue injuries. This procedure is more in-depth than typical platelet-rich plasma preparation, as we harvest bone marrow from the patient’s sternum, which is considered a minor surgical procedure. The benefit to this procedure is that a concentrated dose of stem cells can be delivered directly to the site of the wound or soft tissue injury. Stem cells contribute to the body's ability to renew and repair its tissues. Unlike mature cells, which are permanently committed to their fate, stem cells can both renew themselves as well as create new cells of whatever tissue they belong to (and other tissues).
We encourage you to contact any of our veterinarians for more information or to see if using PRP in your horse is indicated.