What is Platelet Rich Plasma?
Platelet-Rich Plasma, or PRP, is produced from your own blood. The platelets are the cells in our body that contain nutrients and growth factors that are essential to repair injured tissues. With PRP, we extract a very high concentration of platelets from your own blood (over 500% more platelets than normal blood). This way, we can stimulate our body’s healing response. Although an emerging technology and technique in sports medicine, it has been used since the mid-1990’s in dental and oral surgery and to aid in soft tissue recovery following plastic surgery.
How does PRP Therapy work?
To prepare PRP, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient and placed in a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins and automatically produces the PRP by concentrating the platelets. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes and increases the concentration of platelets and growth factors up to 500%. Then the PRP is injected at the site of injury. When PRP is injected into the damaged area, it stimulates the tendon or ligament to activate the healing cascade. The growth factors that the platelets secrete stimulate tissue recovery by increasing collagen production, enhancing tendon stem cell proliferation, and tendon cell-related gene and protein expression. These growth factors also stimulate blood flow and cause cartilage to become more firm and resilient. PRP activates tendon cells to multiply quickly and produce collagen to repair injured tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles, making everything stronger and tighter to withstand the stress of daily and sports-related activities.
What are the potential benefits?
Patients can see a significant improvement in symptoms. This may eliminate the need for more aggressive treatments such as long-term medication or surgery, as well as a remarkable return of function. In addition, PRP has been reported to accelerate tissue healing by as much as 50%.
Will I feel immediate results from PRP therapy?
You will feel a notable increase in pain in the days immediately following the injection. Pain intensity becomes less each day as functional mobility and general functional ability increase along with endurance and strength. You will notice gradual improvement 2-6 weeks after PRP therapy. Some patients report ongoing improvement 6-9 months after PRP therapy is administered. In some studies, Ultrasound and MRI images have shown definitive tissue repair has occurred after PRP therapy, supporting the proof of the healing process. By treating injured tissues before the damage progresses, surgical intervention may be avoided.
I’ve heard of Cortisone Shots; is this the same?
Studies have shown that cortisone injections may actually weaken tissue. Cortisone shots may provide temporary pain relief and stop inflammation, but they do not provide long term healing. PRP therapy heals and strengthens these tendons and ligaments, strengthening and thickening the tissue up to 40% in some cases.
What can be treated?
PRP injections can be performed in tendons, ligaments, and joints all over the body. Sports injuries or any appropriate tendon injury that your physician feels would benefit from PRP can be treated. Tennis elbow, ACL tears, rotator cuff tears, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome may all be effectively treated with PRP. In addition, PRP has been reported to have an anti-inflammatory response when used for osteoarthritis.
How many treatments are necessary and how often is this therapy administered?
While response to treatment can vary, most people will experience significant improvement in symptoms after only 1 injection. In severe cases, a second injection may be needed. Seldom will three or more injections be recommended. Each treatment is spaced approximately 6 to 12 weeks apart. There is no limit to the number of treatments you can have; the risks and side effects do not change with the number of injections.
Is PRP right for me?
If you have a tendon or ligament injury, or mild to moderate osteoarthritis and traditional methods have not provided relief, then PRP therapy may be the solution. The procedure is less aggressive and less expensive than surgery. It will heal tissue with minimal or no scarring and prevent further degeneration of the tissues.
Are there any special instructions?
You are restricted from the use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) one week prior to the procedure and throughout the course of treatments. Initially, the procedure may cause some localized soreness and discomfort. Most patients only require some extra-strength Tylenol to help with the pain. Ice and heat may be applied to the area as needed. After the first week after the procedure, patients will typically start a rehabilitation program with physical therapy. However, aggressive physical activity is discouraged. Blood thinners should also be stopped several days before the blood draw, but may be resumed immediately after the injection.
How soon can I go back to regular physical activities?
PRP therapy helps regenerate tendons and ligaments but it is not a quick fix. This therapy stimulates the growth and repair of tendons and ligaments, and requires time and rehabilitation. Through regular visits, your doctor will determine when you are able to resume regular physical activities. On average, patients return to sports between 8 to 12 weeks after the PRP injection.
Does insurance pay for PRP?
Most insurance companies do not yet cover the PRP injection. However, most patients can use their healthcare flexible spending account to pay for the procedure. Otherwise, it is considered an out of pocket expense. Payment is due at the time of the injection.