Mid-Rivers Equine Centre is treating horses with ligament, tendon, soft tissue and joint injuries with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). PRP is a form of regenerative medicine. Here you see Dr. Baxter treating our patient Chance, a dressage horse. His owner suspects he was playing a little too rough in the pasture when he sprung his right suspensor ligament. Unfortunately, ligament and tendon injuries are slow to heal and re-injury is common, especially when using “traditional” forms of treatment (i.e. stall rest, hand walking, anti-inflammatory medication). The advancements in regenerative medicine and particularly PRP are showing great promise in promoting stronger healing and lower instance of re-injury.
Healing tendons and ligaments is difficult. Think of them as strains of thick hair tightly bundled together. When injury occurs, the hairs become frayed and disorganized at the injury site. The body will begin to repair itself but it is unable to reconnect the frayed ends in a strong and organized manor. This leaves a weak spot, increasing the risk of re-injury.
Traditional forms of treatment do little to help strengthen the repair of injured ligaments and tendons. According to a report from UC Davis for Equine Health: “traditional therapies … rarely recreate a structure that can match original strength or function.”
PRP works differently. It is full of growth factors that promote healing, improve organization, and increase the overall strength of healing fibers. Ultimately, the long-term goal is the re-growth of tissue that has its original strength without scar tissue, thus, making re-injury less likely.
Recovery time with ligament and tendon tears is measured in months. For sport horses this could mean missing a full competition season. With PRP, horses may experience faster recovery times. Dr. Baxter, with Mid-Rivers Equine Centre, points out: “healing times can increase as much as 25-30%.” Although quicker healing is not the primary reason for using PRP, it is certainly an added benefit.
Having PRP performed on your horse is a fairly quick outpatient procedure. Once you’ve checked in at the clinic, your horse will be given a mild sedative and blood will be drawn. The blood is then spun in a centrifuge for several minutes to separate the platelet rich plasma from the blood. After a thorough cleaning and sterilization of the injection site the plasma is injected into the damaged tissue. To ensure proper placement an ultrasound is used to guide the needle. After the sedative wears off you are free to head home with rehab instructions. Generally the entire process takes less than an hour.
A single PRP treatment is good for up to 8 weeks of healing. In Chance’s case we were able to extract two full doses of plasma from the spin. (The size of the dose is determined by the area being treated.) The second dose was frozen. If in 8 weeks Chance needs additional healing, then the second dose can be administered.
There are many ligament, tendon, and soft tissue injuries that will benefit from PRP treatments. If you would like to learn more about PRP or have your horse evaluated for this procedure, we encourage you to call the clinic. One of our doctors will be happy to speak with you.
See More: Photos from Chance’s PRP Treatment