The recovery time from foot and ankle surgery can be extensive for most patients. Going under the knife for Achilles tendon injuries, bone fractures, arthritis and other related feet and ankle issues isn’t guaranteed to correct the pain but is definitely assured of leaving patients subdued for a credible amount of a time. However, a trending therapy process is revving up the recovery time without the pain or procedure of surgery. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is the latest technique under the new health sector known as Orthobiologics, which is being used by foot and ankle surgeons and picks up where medication, physical therapy and other past healing methods are leaving off.

Using PRP, a growth factor found in blood platelets that promotes the healing of bones, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons and tissue, surgeons are getting patients back up and running faster than ever before. The procedure incorporates a small vial of the patient’s blood which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate out the PRP, which then is injected directly to injured site. The process is simple, eliminates major surgery and attacks the healing procedure better than any previous form of surgery could.

“The technology has kind of always been there,” says Dr. Sean T. Grambart, an Illinois foot and ankle surgeon who presented on PRP at the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons’ (ACFAS) Annual Scientific Conference in Fort Lauderdale last March. “We’ve always known that platelets contain factors that stimulate healing but it was hard to initially execute it. But surgeons have devised and it’s taken off from there.”

After PRP therapy, a patient wears a protective boot for four to seven days before they can start to advance in their activities. Grambart, who has been using the procedure for four years, has referred to it for patients that suffer from Achilles tendon pain, nonunions (bones that fail to heal) and acute ligament injuries in athletes. With the increased use of PRP therapy, Grambart believes that “realistically, there’s a variety of ways you can use it and it’s one of those things that seems to work on all kinds of tissue.”

However, although PRP has been widely effective, the varying pathologies within different body and blood structures eliminate the procedure from being full proof. “It seems to help most patients, but it’s unpredictable,” Grambart cautions. “Just because it works on one patient doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work on the other, for several factors.”

Continued research to expand the use of PRP therapy to all patients is the next step in the advanced treatment. Although the first form of PRP was reportedly used 20 years in dentist operations, Grambart sees the trending procedure as the next step in body treatment and recovery. “I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with how PRP affects the different tissues within the body and how it can be used to advance healing.” 

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Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO