It's called Platelet Rich Plasma.
"It involves a process of taking a patients blood, just drawing normal blood, like you would for the lab.Î¾ Put it in a centrifuge and separate it into its various components."
Those components says Dr. David Lintner include platelets.
"And then you extract the platelets and the plasma and what you end up with is a very concentrated solution of platelets."
And that's good because platelets contain the molecules that accelerate healing.
"So by concentrating the platelets you are concentrating those molecules, those chemicals that will expedite and accelerate the healing process."
So then the athletes own platelets and plasma, extracted from his own blood are injected into the injured tissue and injuries that once required surgery are healed with injections.
Dr. Lintner is an orthopedic surgeon with The Methodist Center for Sports Medicine and the head team doctor of the Astros. So when pitcher Doug Brocail injured a hamstring Dr. Lintner told him his choice was surgery or PRP injections.
"I ruptured the middle hamstring completely off the bone and instead of electing to have season ending surgery I elected to try the PRP."
Dr. Lintner says it only takes a few minutes to draw blood, extract the platelets and plasma and inject it.Î¾ The severity of injury determines the number of injections needed. In Brocail's case it was three.Î¾ He says after the first one he found it was easier to walk. He got the second injection a couple weeks later.
"It just seems I healed so much quicker after that one, and come the third injection I was jumping and running and bounding and doing all my lifts, and not that I was ready to get on the mound but I was ready to rehab and get better."
Brocail, at 42, says his rehab from surgery would have taken months, instead of the six weeks it took following PRP injections.Î¾ In fact the results were so good that he did PRP again for an injured Achilles tendon.
"You know if you can stay off that operating table by having some blood drawn an having it injected back into you, I'm all for that."
Dr. Lintner says PRP works on soft tissue like muscles, ligaments and tendons but not on bone injures. He says a modified version even has other applications in the operating room.
"When we are repairing a rotator cuff in the shoulder or reconstructing an ACL in the knee we'll use PRP from that patient and bath the tissue we're repairing in it to stimulate the healing and growth of the repair."
As to what lies ahead for this type of treatment, Lintner says the future of medicine is in the test tube. He says it is not too hard to envision things like a patient's bone marrow or hormones or proteins or enzymes being taken from them and multiplied in the lab and then injected where they are needed to heal them.