Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a regenerative medicine therapy becoming increasingly recognized as a non-steroid alternative to improving tissue healing and rehabilitation. While PRP treatment has received increasing attention from the media, and has been used by many notable professional athletes, its use in medicine dates back decades. An early version of PRP was pioneered in the 1990s in maxillo-facial and plastic surgery to help reduce scarring and promote healing.
The process for producing PRP is straightforward. After obtaining a blood sample from a patient, the blood is put into a centrifuge, which is a tool that separates the blood into its many components. The PRP can then be collected and delivered to an injured area of bone, joint, or soft tissue. Once the activated platelets are injected into the abnormal tissue, growth factors are released that recruit and increase the proliferation of reparative cells called mesenchymal stem cells.
Ultrasound guidance can assist in the precise placement of PRP. After the injection, a patient must avoid exercise for a short period of time before beginning a rehabilitation program. Abstaining from the use of NSAIDs both several weeks before and after a PRP injection is also important because NSAIDS can inhibit tissue healing.
Several clinical studies have demonstrated that PRP injections improve function and decreased pain caused by various soft tissue, ligament, and tendon conditions in many parts of the body. Studies are also showing benefits for osteoarthritis—especially in the knee. In a small study involving knee osteoarthritis, PRP treatment was shown to be more effective than hyaluronic acid treatment. And, recently published studies show that COMBINING PRP with a joint lubricant called hyaluronic acid may boost its effectiveness.
Still, the most promising results have been seen when PRP treatment is used for chronic tendon conditions, such as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and Achilles tendinosis. PRP has also resulted in positive or similar results when used in the treatment of rotator cuff tears and medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries in the knee.
Key Points to Remember:
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) comes from a patient’s own blood.
- PRP is a concentrated source of growth factors and cellular signaling factors that play a significant role in the biology of healing.
- Basic science studies show that PRP treatment may improve healing in many tissues.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines should be stopped before and after PRP treatment is given.
- Some new evidence supports combining PRP with an inject-able joint lubricant called hyaluronic acid for knee osteoarthritis.
Platelet therapy / platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a revolutionary new treatment that relieves pain by promoting long lasting healing of musculoskeletal conditions using the healing power of your own body. This rapidly emerging technique is showing exciting success with osteoarthritis of the knee, shoulder, hip and spine, rotator cuff tears, chronic plantar fascitis, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, pelvic pain and instability, back and neck injuries, tennis elbow, ankle sprains, tendonitis, and ligament sprains. Our physicians were the first in the Washington DC area to use this revolutionary technique and have helped to further the understanding and science behind its continued development. They can determine if this advanced, non-surgical treatment is right for you.
The body’s first response to soft tissue injury is to deliver platelet cells. Packed with growth and healing factors, platelets initiate repair and attract the critical assistance of stem cells. PRP therapy’s natural healing process intensifies the body’s efforts by delivering a higher concentration of platelets. To create PRP therapy, a small sample of your blood is drawn (similar to a lab test sample) and placed in a centrifuge that spins the blood at high speeds, separating the platelets from the other components. These platelets have been further refined and concentrated depending on their specific use. The concentrated platelet rich plasma (PRP) is then injected into and around the point of injury, jump-starting and significantly strengthening the body’s natural healing signal. Because your own blood is used, there is no risk of a transmissible infection and a very low risk of allergic reaction.
The procedure takes approximately about two hours, including preparation and recovery time. Performed safely in a medical office, PRP therapy relieves pain without the risks of surgery, general anesthesia, or hospital stays and without a prolonged recovery. In fact, most people return to their jobs or usual activities right after the procedure.
In the beginning, enough treatments need to be done to maximize recovery. The precise number of treatment sessions varies with the area that was injured, the type of injury, and your ability to heal. Generally you can expect between one and 4 sessions. You may, however, gain considerable to complete relief after the first or second injection.
Unlike a typical injection that is done for pain relief, these injections do not immediately remove pain. However, because the goal of PRP therapy is to actually heal you, the results are usually long term, often permanent. Initial improvement may be seen within a few weeks, gradually increasing as the healing progresses. Research studies and clinical practice have shown PRP therapy to be very effective at relieving pain and returning patients to their normal lives. Both ultrasound and MRI images have shown definitive tissue repair after PRP therapy, confirming the healing process. The need for surgery can also be greatly reduced by treating injured tissues before the damage progresses and the condition is irreversible