Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
What is PRP Injection?
Platelet rich plasma for injuries
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections are an innovative treatment that harnesses your body’s natural healing ability, multiplies it, and delivers it to the area of the body that needs it most. At Omega Pain Doctor clinic in Knoxville, platelet rich plasma injections are used to treat a variety of conditions.
PRP is a bioactive substance made out of a person’s own blood, that can be beneficial in treating joint, ligament, tendon, and muscle injuries. Even though it has been used for blood transfusions and surgery procedures throughout the second half of the 20th century, it was only in the early 2000s that it found its application in orthopedics. Platelet rich plasma therapy has become widespread among professional athletes, allowing them to recover from injuries quicker. And now, it’s available to everyone.
What is platelet rich plasma?
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood, which holds red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. PRP is plasma that contains a higher number of platelets, usually around 3-5 times more than normal.
Platelets are blood cells known for blood coagulation and stopping the bleeding after an injury. But another key function of platelets is the activation of the body’s natural healing process. They contain special proteins called growth factors that can trigger cell growth and tissue repair.
How does it work?
Platelet rich plasma is derived from a patient’s own blood in a simple process. After taking a blood sample from the patient, a doctor uses a device called a centrifuge to separate various blood components. Highly concentrated platelets are added to the plasma, creating platelet rich plasma. Once prepared, the platelet rich plasma is injected into the injured part of the body, where the platelets release their growth factors and enhance recovery.
At the same time, platelet rich plasma triggers the activation of macrophages – the immune cells that clear away the damaged parts of the injured tissue and prepare it for healing. PRP also enhances the production of stem cells, which become the building blocks of the tissue repair.
Benefits of PRP injections
Platelet rich plasma injections are used to reduce pain and improve the healing of musculoskeletal injuries and chronic tendon conditions such as
- tennis elbow,
- rotator cuff tears in the shoulder,
- a torn meniscus in the knee,
- plantar fasciitis in the foot, and
- spine and hip injuries.
Ligaments and tendons can be quite stubborn in terms of healing. They have a low blood supply, which means they don’t receive as many platelets as most other parts of the body. Boosting a flow of platelets to the injury site through a PRP injection can help the tissue heal and regenerate faster.
PRP injections can also help relieve inflammation and pain from osteoarthritis in the short and medium term (up to a year).
How effective are PRP injections?
Platelet rich plasma therapy is a relatively new procedure, and the clinical studies are still in the early stages. The techniques, concentrations, and applications can differ between research teams which makes it harder to consolidate the results.
Nonetheless, there have been a few promising studies that show that platelet plasma injections can be effective.
In 2006, A. Mishra and T. Pavelko, researchers from Stanford University Medical Center, followed 15 patients who had persistent pain from elbow tendinosis and were considering surgery. Eight weeks after a single PRP injection, the patients reported an average of 60% improvement in their pain scores, compared to 16% in the control group. After 2 years, the pain levels of the PRP patients were reduced by 93%.
A small 2008 study of rotator cuff tear patients concluded that “the application of platelet rich plasma during arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is safe and effective, and produces results which seem to be stable with time.”
In 2009, an animal study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that “local delivery of PRP can shorten recovery time after a muscle strain injury.”
Side effects, precautions, and considerations
Platelet rich plasma injection is a very safe and minimally invasive procedure. Since PRP comes from a patient’s own cells, side effects and adverse reactions are unlikely. The injection is quick and is done on an outpatient basis. Since the procedure involves a blood draw, it’s important to ensure you are hydrated and have eaten, to avoid light-headedness.
After the procedure, you may feel pain at the injection site for the first several days. It’s recommended to lower your activity levels for a few days after the treatment. You should start to feel some improvement in your symptoms in 2-6 weeks but it might take longer to reach its full effect.
The patients that are taking blood thinners might have to stop them before the injection, but this consideration should always be cleared with your doctor.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen, have been shown to reduce platelet function, which is why they should not be used 2 weeks before and 6 weeks after the procedure.
In some cases, repeat injections might be recommended to improve the outcome.
PRP injections are not recommended if you have:
- abnormal platelet function
- low platelet count
If you have any of these conditions, please make sure to let your doctor know.
Platelet rich plasma injection is an innovative procedure that can help you recover from a joint, muscle, tendon or ligament injury. It uses the platelets from your own blood to speed up the immune response and promote new cell growth. The practice has been shown to be effective in a few small studies although further research is necessary to confirm the efficacy on a larger scale. One of the main benefits of the injection is that it carries very low risk, making it an attractive option as pain relief and recovery aid. It can be used in combination with other treatments, such as physical therapy, to achieve the best results. If you are considering platelet rich plasma injections, please contact your doctor, who will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding the procedure.
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