Platelet-rich plasma for the treatment of partial rotator cuff tears
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Rotator cuff tears are a common injury impacting a large and diverse group of patients and refer to a partial or full discontinuation of one or more of the muscles or tendons comprising the shoulder complex. It may occur as a result of traumatic injury, applied weight, overuse, or intrinsic degeneration over a period of years. The incidence of rotator cuff tears has been found to increase with age. Though not a life-threatening condition, rotator cuff tears adversely affect the quality of one's lifestyle causing significant pain, weakness, and limitation of motion that hinders a person from performing routine daily activities as adequately and frequently as desired. Data from cadaveric studies suggest that as many as 65% of individuals over the age of 70 have a partial-thickness rotator cuff tear. Oftentimes, rotator cuff tears are asymptomatic which can make diagnosis and early treatment challenging. The decision to pursue operative versus conservative management is often controversial. Though surgical intervention may provide more immediate pain relief and functional improvement, it portends a higher risk of morbidity than conservative measures, particularly with an older demographic of patients. Moreover, surgical repair is often followed by long recovery periods and has variable outcomes. A number of conservative treatment options are currently being utilized for the management of partial rotator cuff tears including oral medication, corticosteroid injection, and targeted physical therapy. This review seeks to assess an innovative, biologic approach to treating partial rotator cuff tears using autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP). The use of PRP for the conservative management of both degenerative and acutely injured tissues is quickly becoming a more popular option within the clinical community. PRP treatment has received significant attention from the media and has been used by several professional athletes as a means of expediting the healing process. The appeal of PRP stems from the fact that it is produced from a patient's own blood. After a blood sample is obtained, it is placed into a centrifuge, a tool used to separate the blood into its many components. A large concentration of platelet-enriched plasma can then be collected and augmented before administration to an injured area of bone or soft tissue, such as a tendon or ligament. Platelets contain an abundance of growth factors essential for cellular recruitment, proliferation, and specialization required for the healing process. PRP is given to a patient via an injection, often under ultrasound assistance for more precise placement. This study reviewed a collection of current literature on the efficacy of PRP in rotator cuff repair. Published studies have generally illustrated a general trend towards effectiveness, suggesting PRP may improve patient outcomes and prevent the need for surgery in patients with partial rotator cuff tears. Study designs and results have proved to be inconsistent at times. However, further clinical investigation is required to validate the use of PRP as an additional non-surgical treatment option.