Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) may stimulate healing in many conditions; it may be especially useful for conditions related to defects, diseases, or injuries of connective tissues. However, many clinics are also offering it for improving male sexual health, to treat erectile dysfunction, increase the size of the penis, and much more. But does it work?
What Is PRP, and How Is It Prepared?
PRP, as the name suggests, is derived from human blood. In most cases, clinicians prepare it by using the product of the same person getting treatment (called autologous PRP), as it is a safer way. However, in some cases, donor products can be used (1).
One can divide human blood into the cellular and non-cellular part. The cellular part has three sub-parts that are red cells, white cells, and platelets. Whereas, a non-cellular part is rich in numerous compounds like albumin, antibodies, and so on.
Thus, as one can guess, PRP is prepared by removing mainly red blood cells from the blood, and to an extend white blood cells, and what is left is plasma rich in platelets. Then this platelet-rich plasma is injected at the site for stimulating healing processes locally (1).
In healthy individuals, platelets have many roles. Their most important task is hemostasis, which is preventing bleeding (2). Additionally, they play an essential part in the localization of inflammation, fighting infections, healing trauma, and so on (3).
Role of PRP in Various Health Conditions
Since tissue repair starts with the localization of inflammation, the formation of a clot, therefore, many researchers think that local injections of PRP may help boost these processes.
Clinicians are now using PRP in numerous clinical conditions with varying degree of success (1):
- For skin and wound healing
- Gynecological conditions like cervical ectopy, vulvar dystrophy, in reconstructive vulvar surgery
- Urogenital disorders like genital fistulae, genital prolapse, urinary inconsistency
- In reproductive medicine for premature ovarian failure, ovarian torsion, refractory endometrium, repeated implantation failure
- In aesthetic medicine or plastic surgery during breast reconstruction, treating female sexual dysfunction, vaginal rejuvenation, treating alopecia (4, 5)
- In trauma to treat severe sprains and strains, as an alternative to surgery (6)
Researchers are testing it for many more conditions, and there is ongoing research for the role of PRP in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Evidence in Favor of PRP for Treating Erectile Dysfunction
There is some evidence that it may work, specialists think that it not only has a role in treating erectile dysfunction but may have broader usefulness in andrology.
However, it is not widely used to treat erectile dysfunction and is still more commonly used in a few countries. It means that there is still a lack of high-quality evidence.
Report from 2019 says that PRP is in much more extensive use than many thinks, and 683 clinics (registered) are using this treatment. Since this data is not complete, in reality, many more clinics may be using it, as regulatory norms differ in continents (7).
2019 report says that though good evidence is emerging, there is still a need for more extensive clinical trials (7).
Researchers are globally keeping an eye on this mode of treatment, and the latest research report published in 2020 found some indication that it helps in some cases. Quite like the 2019 report, this particular report also says that it is difficult to derive any conclusion due to the low quality of evidence, and a limited number of clinical trials (8).
So, what can one conclude from these reports? These reports accept the positive influence of PRP on male erectile function, but they are non-conclusive. They say that there is still a need for more extensive studies.
Additionally, it is vital to understand that not anyone would go for PRP. Only males living with severe erectile dysfunction that would not respond to traditional forms of treatment would choose such a therapy. This means that such individuals are living with critical and challenging to treat erectile dysfunction, and have many associated disease conditions.
Individuals living with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction may show much better improvement than those living with prolonged issues. That is why most research done on severe cases shows limited benefit.
The high degree of safety can also be one of the reasons to support such therapy.
Evidence Against PRP for Erectile Dysfunction
There are perhaps two reasons to caution against the use of such a treatment. First are the limited clinical data and lack of evidence from the robust clinical trials. It is evident from both the 2019 and 2020 reports.
Additionally, it is not a treatment for anyone. For most people, its cost may be a significant barrier. Since it is not a mainline treatment, insurance will not cover it. The cost of such a procedure may vary, but it is still an expensive procedure, as shown by different reports (9).
Who Should Consider PRP for Erectile Dysfunction?
PRP provides hope to some of the individuals more severely affected by erectile dysfunctions. It may have a role for treating the condition in those who cannot tolerate medications like Viagra or Cialis, or would not respond to them.
Another reason for its use could be other benefits associated with such therapy. It may boost the healing processes of the body, thus having some lesser-known benefits.
In the end, for many, the cost could be a significant barrier, especially considering that it is still an experimental treatment.