KENS-TV's Wendy Rigby reports>
A San Antonio doctor is using parts of patients' own blood to speed healing. It's a process called platelet rich plasma injections, and it's helping some people with soft tissue problems find relief without surgery.
Christina Mount's ankles have been giving her fits. That's not a good situation for an aspiring high school tennis player. So Mount, 16, is turning to Dr. Annette Zaharoff and the for help.
"I thought that it was a good time to start, once college is coming up, to start thinking about long term solutions to get my ankles better," Mount said.
Mount is trying platelet rich plasma, a regenerative injection therapy to help with chronic problems like tendenosis and ligament strains. Platelets are part of the blood with a high concentration of growth factors.
"So the concept is actually stimulating the body's natural healing response," Dr. Zaharoff, a physiatrist, explained. "We're actually stimulating inflammation that the body hasn't been able to do, bring in new cells, let those cells generate, remodel and become strong."
The first step is to take the patient's own blood in a simple procedure like any other normal blood draw. The blood is put into a centrifuge for 15 minutes. The components are separated and then drawn up into a special syringe. The platelet rich plasma fluid contains five to ten-fold the amount of platelets in normal blood. Dr. Zaharoff describes it as a "platelet cocktail." She injects it directly where the ligaments and bones connect.
The therapy is not just for ankles. Doctors are using this technique on knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, hands, and just about anywhere stubborn injuries crop up.
Mount is hoping this technique will help her tennis career at Boerne Champion High School and beyond. "Well, I've already noticed that my ankles are just a lot stronger and I'm a lot more confident in moving," Mount said.
Dr. Zaharoff said platelet rich plasma therapy isn't just for athletes. "Pretty much anyone who has a pain condition that isn't responding to the first initial acute treatment that we see usually work, this would be a very good opportunity for anyone to use," Zaharoff claimed.
Some problems respond to just one treatment. Dr. Zaharoff says the average is about three, and sometimes patient need up to six platelet rich plasma injections.