Platelet-rich-plasma (PRP)

Platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) can be used for the treatment of joints, bursae and soft tissue injuries.

Platelets are small cell fragments that circulate in the blood along with the red (oxygen carrying) and white (infection fighting) cells. Also know as thrombocytes (from the Greek for ‘clot’ and ‘cell’) they are a potent source of growth factors and play an important role in blood clotting. If the body produces too few platelets, excessive bleeding may occur through only minor injuries. Too many platelets, and blood clots may form where they should not.

How does PRP work?

A sample of blood is taken from the horse, and processed to increase the number of platelets and growth factors it contains. This is done by passing the blood through a filter or by placing it in a centrifuge. There are pros and cons to the different systems and your vet will choose the most appropriate.  The PRP sample can be ready to inject into the horse within 15-30 minutes after taking the blood sample. 

Platelets release a large number of growth factors when they arrive at a site of tissue injury, including platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), insulin-like growth factors (IGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) that are known to orchestrate the movements of other cells and stimulate the production of repair tissue (extracellular matrix). It is these growth factors that we aim to take advantage of when using PRP.

When is PRP used?

PRP can be used for the treatment of joints, bursae and soft tissue injuries. For joints, the procedure is the same as that for injecting any other product such as local anaesthetic or corticosteroids – the joint is usually clipped and then cleaned to reduce the risk of infection before the PRP is injected. For soft tissue injuries such as tendon or ligament strains, a number of injection sites may be needed and the PRP is often injected through small needles placed through the skin into the site of injury.

Management of the horse after treatment depends largely on the reason for the intervention – i.e. what injury the horse has sustained, rather than anything specific to PRP. In most cases, the site of injection will be bandaged for 24 hours and the horse’s activity restricted. Full details are provided for each individual case at the time of treatment.

As with other techniques in the field of regenerative medicine, accurate data on the success of using PRP in the treatment of equine injuries is lacking, but the technique has been in use for a number of years and is increasingly popular. There seem to be very few adverse effects and although no randomised clinical trials have been published, there are numerous reports and frequent presentations at scientific meetings that support its use.

For further information, please speak to your vet, or contact Rossdales Equine Diagnostic Centre on 01638 577754.

Treatment & Therapeutics