In recent years, doctors have learned more about the body’s remarkable ability to heal itself. Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that harnesses those abilities to heal many joint, tendon and spine injuries.
What is plasma and what are platelets?
Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood. It is primarily composed of water and proteins and provides a means for red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to circulate throughout the body. Platelets are a special type of blood cell that stimulate healing. They contain hundreds of growth factors that initiate the healing process and encourage tissue regeneration.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) contains a concentration of platelets that is greater than that found in the blood. This significantly increased concentration of growth factors creates an increased stimulus to injured tissues, encouraging them to complete the healing process.
How does Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Work?
Scientific studies show that by increasing the concentration of growth factors, the body can speed up the healing process. By injecting inflamed or damaged tissue, injuries are encouraged to heal quickly even if they have persisted for years.
How is the PRP treatment performed?
About 4 tablespoons of blood are drawn from the patient using techniques similar to a typical blood exam. The sample is placed into a centrifuge which spins the blood and separates the platelets from the other blood components. After numbing the injured area, the concentrated platelet solution is injected under the visual guidance of an ultrasound or digital xray by your physician.
Areas where PRP therapy has been shown to be effective include:
- Chronic tendon injuries: Platelet-rich plasma therapy can treat sports injuries, such as tennis elbow, gluteal tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, patellar tendinitis and Achilles tendonitis.
- Joint arthritis: PRP is used to reduce the inflammation, pain and stiffness caused by arthritis of knees, hips and other joints. PRP also improves the cushion in the joint and kills the cartilage destroying cells.
- Spine pain: PRP therapy can reduce the pain of chronic disc tears, irritated nerves (sciatica) or joint arthritis.
The effectiveness of PRP therapy varies among different patients as a result of:
- Overall health of the patient
- The severity of the injured tissues
- The length of time the tissue has been injured
Preparing for PRP therapy
The patient should eat and be well hydrated before the procedure to avoid lightheadedness. Patients should tell their doctor about any medications or prescriptions they use on a regular basis. It’s also important to follow the doctor’s instructions when it comes to anti-inflammatory medications or blood thinners.
The PRP Treatment
The procedure is typically performed in a doctor’s clinic. The doctor begins by drawing blood from the patient, and uses a centrifuge to separate the platelets and plasma from the rest of the blood cells. The doctor will then numb the area to be treated and carefully inject the PRP into the injured tissues or joint. The platelets release growth factors which will initiate tissue healing. This treatment takes approximately 30-60 minutes.
After Receiving PRP Therapy
The injection site may be sore for a few days following the procedure. Patients may take mild analgesics like Tylenol or use ice to minimize soreness. Patients usually resume gentle activities within the first week after treatment. The results of PRP are not immediate and patients can observe slow gradual improvement over a couple of months. A review of our clinic data shows that most patients continue to have relief even years after PRP treatment.
Talk with your doctor today if you are interested in learning more about PRP therapy.