PRP vs Stem Cell: Which One is Right for Me?

Regenerative medicine is an incredibly powerful tool in the management and treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain. This growing field empowers clinicians to harness the body’s innate ability to heal itself in the treatment of back pain using cellular components autologous (within) a patient’s own body. 

However, many people might think this idea seems fanciful–how can something that’s already in the body be extracted, processed, and used to perform a procedure that can replace invasive surgery?

Battling that perception is one of the chief callings of a place like RestorePDX. We seek to empower patients with the knowledge and information necessary to make informed decisions about their own care. If you want to reduce or eliminate your back pain while avoiding surgery, we believe it is your right to understand all available treatment options, including regenerative medicine.

To that end, one of the most common questions we get at RestorePDX–and one we’d like to discuss today–is which regenerative medicine procedure a patient should undergo for a given condition. 

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a procedure that uses a patient’s own blood, which is extracted, refined through a centrifugation process, and injected under imaging guidance back into the body at the site of injury. The process of “spinning down” the blood in a centrifuge separates the blood into its three component parts: plasma, which contains a high concentration of growth factors that are known to drive the body’s healing process and promote recovery; red blood cells; and a “buffy coat” of other cellular components, where additional platelets concentrate. However, in order to be effective, each individual PRP procedure needs to be precisely calibrated to a given patient, injury, and/or condition. So PRP is not the one-size-fits-all treatment that some providers believe it to be. 

To effectively use PRP, a trained, experienced physician must determine the exact mix of Precision Biologics necessary to treat a given injury and decide how to process it, what percentage of platelets to retain, and where to inject it.

Stem Cell

Stem cell therapy is a more powerful, albeit also more invasive, regenerative medicine therapy in the orthobiologic tool chest. The current standard of care for regenerative medicine procedures favors the use of autologous (the patient’s own) cells for these treatments, and whether extracted from adipose (fat) tissue or bone marrow, stem cell therapies can reduce or eliminate pain by harnessing the power of adult stem cells to promote healing and recovery. The entire process of harvesting cells, preparing them, and then re-injecting the stem cell mixture can take as little as half of an hour with minimal pain and very little recovery time–especially when compared to more invasive multi-level fusion surgery!

The question of which of these two revolutionary procedures is right for you is, understandably, not an easy one to answer in a blog post! As mentioned above, regenerative medicine procedures are not a one-size-fits-all procedure; each patient must be viewed as an individual, unique set of variables that need to be gathered, considered, and synthesized by a trained physician to determine the best course of treatment. 

Therefore, if you believe your back pain might benefit from a procedure like PRP or stem cell therapy, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a trained, experienced regenerative medicine professional like those at RestorePDX. We approach regenerative medicine with a three-tiered approach we like to call the Three-Legged Stool of Regenerative Medicine:

  • Precision Diagnosis – we believe that the first, essential step to properly treating a patient’s pain is to arrive at an accurate, complete diagnosis of what is causing their pain
  • Precision Biologics – we believe that the second step is to then formulate the exact type and preparation of orthobiologic cells that will work together to promote healing and drive recovery
  • Precision Delivery – the final, and arguably most important, step in the Three-Legged Stool is to deliver the precisely formulated orthobiologic mixture to exactly the right place using fluoroscopic or ultrasound imaging.
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