The use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a growing trend in orthopedic medicine and pain management. Patients are seeing great results with this regenerative therapy. While bone and soft tissues heal in stages, the use of PRP has been proven to facilitate the healing process.
What is PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma is produced from the patient’s own blood. It is a concentration of platelets, which circulate in the blood and are useful for blood clotting. The liquid plasma portion of the blood, along with the platelets, contain growth factors that are used for cell recruitment, multiplication, and specialization. PRP is given to patients via an injection or being placed during a surgical procedure. The solution helps with tissue regeneration and facilitates healing.
Does PRP therapy work?
In a recent study, PRP was used to treat Achilles tendinosis that didn’t respond to nonoperative management. In the study, 30 patients ages 36 to 66 years were treated with standard measures, which included heel lifts, physical therapy, walker bracing, cast immobilization, and nonsteroidal medicines. The patients received PRP therapy. Using scoring data from the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society’s ankle-hindfoot scores, researchers found that 93% of the PRP patients reported improvement and satisfaction with their clinical results. In addition, the scores improved as time went by, with the best scores obtained at the 6-month follow-up date.
What conditions are treated using PRP therapy?
PRP has been used in many animal studies, as well as human clinical trials. The increased number of cells will lead to improve muscle regeneration, improved tendon strength, and decreased joint degeneration. Conditions treated with PRP include:
- Achilles tendinosis
- Gastrocnemius muscle injuries
- Acute cruciate ligament tears
- Rotator cuff tears and injuries
- Lateral epicondylitis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Medial collateral ligament injuries
How is PRP used in orthopedic medicine?
PRP contains endogenous growth factors, which are performance-enhancing substances. Because of this, it is contraindicated in athletes who are returning to sports within a certain timeframe. PRP also contains stem cells, which stimulate proteins and growth factors. Signaling factors in PRP instruct the body to send stem cells to repair injury or damage. PRP therapy has been used many times to delay or replace traditional orthopedic surgery.
How do I prepare for the PRP injection?
There are few preparation requirements for this procedure. Because increased bleeding can occur, you should notify the surgeon of what medicines you take, as certain blood-thinning agents are to be held. The doctor may order some diagnostic tests before the procedure, and he will conduct a comprehensive physical examination. After the doctor reviews the procedure risks and benefits, he/she will have you sign a consent form.
How are PRP injections given?
The National Institute of Regenerative Medicine requires two PRP injections for each treated area, but some physicians recommend a series of 3-5. Each procedure takes around 20-40 minutes, and the injections are spaced 4-8 weeks apart. PRP therapy involves administration of the solution via injection, or it is placed on the damaged area during an invasive surgery/procedure. To guarantee correct placement, x-ray guidance is used (fluoroscopy).
What can I expect following the PRP therapy injections?
Right after the procedure, the injection site will be a little tender. The area will experience some exacerbation of inflammation and pain over the next 1-4 days. However, pain will gradually subside. Since the patient’s own blood is used, there is little chance of an allergic reaction.
Leahy M (2013). PRP effective in treating chronic Achilles tendinosis. Retrieved from: http://prolotherapy.com/Leahy_PRP%20effective%20in%20treating%20chronic%20Achilles%20tendonosis.pdf