Healthbeat Report: Supercharged healing

September 3, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's credited with helping Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward start in Super Bowl 43 and it may have helped Major League pitcher Takashi Saito avoid surgery.

Around the country and even here in Chicago more and more top tier athletes are turning to a treatment called PRP or platelet rich plasma therapy to help heal stubborn injuries.

"It felt great…felt like I had a new knee in there now it's almost seven months and it still feeling amazing," said Brad Phillips, PRP Patient, Northwestern WildCats.

Northwestern football player Brad Phillips was plagued with tendonitis in his knee last season. Northwestern surgeon and team doctor Michael Terry offered to try an injection of PRP instead of surgery and the senior safety was game.

"I think he's been doing really well I think it helps I believe in it and that's why I use it," said Dr. Michael Terry, orthopedic surgeon, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

So what is this magic elixir called PRP? There's nothing really mysterious. No drugs or chemicals. It's actually just concentrated parts of a person's own blood.

Getting it starts with a simple blood draw about a vial's worth. It's then spun in a special machine .. Separating the red blood cells from plasma that contains platelets.

Platelets are a natural source of growth factors, substances that help repair tissue.

"It turns out our own plasma has these growth factors that will stimulate healing and cellular proliferation or growth," said Dr. Anthony Romeo, orthopedic surgeon, Rush University Medical Center.

The platelet rich blood is then injected back into the patient's body at the site of an injury.

Experts say a shot of PRP can accelerate healing of recent injuries by 30 to 50 percent. The treatment can take place in the doctors office but it's also being used in the operation room.

"We all have the innate ability to heal," said Dr. Brian Cole, orthopedic surgeon, Rush University Medical Center. "So what this does is upcharge the environment during a healing phase."

Orthopedic surgeons at Rush University Medical Center are now researching and using PRP in hard to heal rotator cuff tears. During surgery to repair the shoulder Dr. Anthony Romeo is also injecting PRP into the area where the tendon and bone meet.

"We have early clinical data that does suggests it does help healing of tendons to bone even in the non-surgical setting there has been report of patients improving," said Dr. Romeo.

Skeptics say the science proving PRP is limited. It's still considered experimental in the United States and is not commonly used. What most doctors do agree on is that this therapy is not a cure-all.

"We are still very cautious in terms of how we are proceeding. It's not a panacea for everything this is wrong orthopedically or medically," said Dr. Cole.

PRP is also being tested in dentistry and heart surgery and there's research to see if it can regenerate bone or help arthritis. So if it's so simple and safe why can't we use it for every area that's having trouble healing? There's still a lot of questions because it's so new. Plus, it doesn't come cheap with a price tag around $1,000 and up. And doctors say with many injuries the body still goes a good enough job on it's own.

Anthony A. Romeo, M.D.
Sports Medicine, Elbow, Shoulder
Rush Univeristy Medical Center
Midwest Orthopedics
Associate Professor, Director, Section of Shoulder & Elbow, Rush University Medical Center

For more information about Dr. Romeo visit

Rush University Medical Center
1725 West Harrison Street, Suite 1063
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Toll free 877 MD BONES
Phone: 312.243.4244
Fax: 312.942.1517

Brian J. Cole, M.D., M.B.A.
Sports Medicine, Cartilage Restoration Professor, Department of Orthopaedics, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology; Section Head, Cartilage Restoration Center at Rush, Rush University Medical Center

Rush University Medical Center
1725 West Harrison Street, Suite 1063
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Toll free 877 MD BONES
Phone: 312.243.4244
Fax: 312.942.1517

Michael A. Terry , MD
Assistant Professor
Subspecialty: Sports Medicine and Shoulder SurgeryClinical Areas
Orthopaedic Surgery
Telephone Number
(312) 695-6800Fax Number
(312) 695-2772

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Practice Information
Office Location: Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation
Galter Pavilion
675 North St Clair
Suite: 17-100
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Board Certification
Orthopaedic Surgery Medical School
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

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