Platelet-Rich Plasma for Tendon and Ligament Problems

A Cornell University researcher recently showed that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy can enhance the healing response and quality of repair at the cellular level in treatment of tendonitis and suspensory ligament desmitis. Lisa A. Fortier, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, is also studying whether this treatment method reduces susceptibility to re-injury.

Tendonitis and inflammation of suspensory ligaments are common injuries of performance horses that can result from overloading or overworking. Historically, treatment has included icing, supportive bandaging, medication, and rehabilitative exercise. Although these methods are valuable, they often don't restore the tendon or ligament to normal, leaving the horse prone to re-injury.

PRP is a blood by-product produced by centrifugation of the patient's blood. It's rich in platelets--the body's biggest reservoir of growth factors. Additionally, Fortier noted, "Because PRP is a natural, patient-derived product, there is virtually no chance of rejection by the body or disease transmission." 

This first phase of Fortier's study began in the fall of 2005 and was completed by February 2006. The study was performed in vitro (in the laboratory, not in the live horse) using tendons treated with PRP. The tendons showed increased synthesis of normal collagen (which provides elasticity), and enhanced synthesis of other normal tendon components. This study will be published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

Clinical application of PRP in client-owned horses began after that study was completed. PRP remains Fortier's preferred treatment method for tendonitis, and she uses PRP injections combined with traditional therapies. She said that when injected at the site of injury, PRP functions to enhance the normal healing process. Part of the healing cascade that is stimulated by PRP is inflammation. The ability of PRP to stimulate inflammation is important because it suggests that PRP would also be useful in chronic cases of tendonitis.

With clinical cases continuing to be treated, Fortier said the real test will be patient re-entry into performance, which she will be monitoring this year.

About the Author

Amy DeGeer Oberdorf

Amy DeGeer Oberdorf is a freelance writer in Midland, Michigan. She contributes regularly to Performance Horse magazine and has also written for The Reiner, Perfect Horse, Quarter Horse News, and Horse Show magazine. Throughout her lifetime, she has studied multiple riding diciplines, and for the last 12 years has been an avid reining competitor. She is also a 4-H judge.

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