After practicing for 30 years, I would not think that I could still learn more new techniques. Well, I did- a new surgical approach, and an introduction to regenerative medicine.
But this is not about cruciate repair, but instead about a new modality for joint repair called “Platelet Rich Plasma” or PRP. When we do any orthopedic repair, involving the joints, there will inevitably be osteoarthritis (OA). Of course, there are conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and tendonitis, which lead to OA. We have been using various modalities over the last decade- joint supplements (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, green lipped muscle), injections of poly-aminoglycosaminoglycans (cartrophen, adequan), manual therapies including physio/acupuncture/chiro, light therapy (laser) and of course a varied line of medication for pain (nsaids, tramadol, gabapentin, steroids).
We now have a new modality to add to our armamentarium of treatments- the new and evolving area of regenerative medicine, of which there are two currently being investigated- PRP and stem cell injections. Although I am licensed to do stem cell treatments, the cost is quite prohibitive, involving a surgery, harvesting of fat, sending to a laboratory to grow the cells, then re- injecting into the affected area. It usually runs 2- 2.5 k for one treatment.
So when studies about the regenerative effects of platelets started to come out, I was intrigued. Platelets are small fragments of a cell in our blood called thrombocytes, and are usually renowned for their clotting ability. However, we have been using platelets as a treatment for eye diseases for years- by taking plasma separated from the red blood cells, and using them as drops to help healing.
We now know that platelets stimulate cell growth, reduce inflammation, which all aid in healing. So companies have developed techniques to concentrate these cells from a blood draw, allowing us to separate plasma into an injection. We then are able to inject these cells into an affected joint, all within one minor sedation. The cost is affordable- around 300-350.
I know how my clients are always looking for less medication, and like alternative therapies. So we invested in the machines and tubes to do the technique, and are now able to offer this for treatments of degenerative joint and tendon diseases at the Timberlea Veterinary Clinic.
The most important thing is that osteoarthritis causes pain. PRP will reduce pain in a joint anywhere from 5-6 months, and can be repeated if needed. I now have become very proficient at doing joint taps, which is the new skill this old vet has had to master. So you can teach an old dog new tricks!