Healing equine tendon and ligament injuries with Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
By Dr. Keaton Massie
Massie Veterinary Services
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) is a regenerative therapy that involves injecting a high concentration of platelets into the site of an injury to aid healing. PRP is effective in treating tendon and ligament injuries, joints, and soft tissue injuries. It is a safe and effective treatment method because it harnesses the horse’s own tissue to accelerate natural healing and promote recovery. In my opinion, PRP is one of the best therapies introduced to the equine industry in years.
How does PRP work?
Platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells are the three primary cell types found in blood plasma. Platelets are tiny cell fragments that contain significant amounts of beneficial growth factors (TGF, PDGF, IGF, EGF, and CTGF) that can help in the development of new blood vessels, repair of connective tissues, and skin regeneration. Platelets are also very essential for blood clotting and wound healing.
The essence of PRP is to concentrate these growth factors around the injured tissues of a horse to facilitate a speedy recovery.
First, a blood sample is collected from the horse. The blood is then spun in a special centrifuge to separate the red and white blood cells from the platelets and plasma, thereby creating a platelet-rich plasma.
The platelet-concentrated plasma is then re-injected into the horse at the injury site to increase the growth factors at that site and naturally promote healing. Each of these growth factors contributes to the healing of injured tissues by attracting stem cells to the injury site, promoting the growth of connective tissue, and developing new blood vessels to bring nutrients and oxygen to the injured area.
When should PRP be used?
The reality is we are just scraping the surface of the uses of PRP in animal medicine. The uses are growing constantly. I have found PRP very useful as an addition in treating common injuries where traditional therapies have been used, as well as where other therapies have failed. Some of the popular conditions it has been used for include:
Tendon and ligament injuries
One of the most difficult injuries to treat is a ligament or tendon injury. This is because they are infamous for slow healing. These structures are primarily made of connective tissue and have a limited blood supply. If the tendon doesn’t heal properly, it leads to the formation of scar tissue and makes the horse susceptible to reinjury at the same site.
PRP has been exceptionally useful in treating ligament and tendon injuries because it gets vital healing factors to these injury sites. The result is the enhancement of fibroblast proliferation and collagen production strengthening healed tendons and ligaments, subsequently having a reduction in fibrosis and scar formation, and the prevention of re-injury.
PRP is usually injected through small needles inserted through the skin at the injury site. Several injection sites may be required when treating tendon and ligament injuries.
Osteoarthritis and Joint injuries
Osteoarthritis can be treated by injecting PRP directly into the joint. PRP has been successfully used to treat shoulder, knee, and hock joint injuries in horses.
Wounds and open injuries treated with PRP have been observed to heal faster than conventional wound repair. PRP has also become a post-surgical therapy to accelerate full recovery. The natural healing process of PRP helps to prevent the formation of proud flesh and scars around healed wounds.
Other common ways PRP is used are to: prevent meniscus tears, treat bone lesions, and treat suspensory desmitis.
Like most other regenerative therapy methods, the treatment results so far obtained with PRP have been truly amazing. While there’s still some way to go to perfect this treatment, there’s enough knowledge to treat major horse injuries successfully. I recommend this safe, natural, and effective treatment therapy for practitioners in the equine industry. Feel free to contact me below to discuss PRP treatment for your horse.