Platelet-rich plasma (abbreviated PRP) is a treatment used for a variety of common orthopedic conditions. PRP is a concentration of platelet cells taken from your own blood. These platelets have growth factors that help in the healing process of chronic injuries. By injecting PRP into areas of an injury or non-healing tissue, we can stimulate and optimize your body's ability to heal the condition.
Conditions PRP is used for
PRP has been used in operating rooms for several decades to help with wound healing and to stimulate bone formation in spinal fusion surgery. Recently, PRP has been used in outpatient settings for treatment of common overuse conditions, including:
- Achilles Tendon
- Rotator Cuff Tendon
- Tennis Elbow
- Patellar Tendon
- Plantar Fascia
- Hamstring Tendon
- Joint pain from arthritis or cartilage wear (particularly the knee)
How PRP is obtained
PRP is obtained from the patient who is being treated. Blood is withdrawn from a vein in the patient's arm just like when you have lab tests or donate blood (although we don’t draw as much as is taken during blood donation). The blood is then placed in a centrifuge, a machine that spins at a high speed to separate the different types of blood cells. The platelet-rich portion of the blood is extracted, and the sports medicine physician injects this PRP into the area of injury. The injection is almost always done under ultrasound-guidance to make sure that the area being treated is the area where the platelets are delivered. Most of the time, physicians only need to perform one injection, although sometimes PRP injections are given as a series over a span of several months.
Is PRP effective?
We know from laboratory studies that PRP can help increase certain growth factors that are important in the healing process. In clinical studies, there has been good evidence for long-term healing of tennis elbow tendons and Achilles tendons. Studies on other body areas have been done on small enough numbers of patients that even though the results have been promising, we cannot yet say definitively that PRP works in these areas.
There have been multiple studies performed for knee joint pain from arthritis that have shown significant pain relief—far longer (9-12 months in some studies) and far better than cortisone or other injections. Currently, multiple investigations are underway to determine if PRP is more helpful than other treatments for other chronic tendon problems.
Because of the lack of definitive proof in most body areas, many doctors and most insurance companies consider PRP to be experimental. Therefore, insurance companies will not pay for or reimburse in most cases of PRP treatments. We understand the weight of paying for medical care out of pocket, so we have negotiated unmatched pricing for the equipment and reduced costs as much as possible for our patients.
Is PRP safe?
Yes. Because we use the patient’s own blood, there is no risk of allergic reaction. We use standard precautions to avoid risks of infection and injury to other tissues (including using ultrasound-guidance as mentioned above).
Is PRP painful?
Unfortunately, PRP is quite painful. We take great care to minimize the pain during the procedure and afterwards. The pain subsides quickly and most patients are at their normal daily activities within 1-2 days.
What should I expect after PRP treatment?
PRP and the growth factors they trigger work by creating some inflammation. In order to be successful, PRP treatment requires that patients stop taking any anti-inflammatories before and after the procedure. This can be for 2-6 weeks after the procedure, depending on the body location and the physician instruction.
Patients can also expect some activity restrictions for several weeks after treatment. Normal daily activities that don’t require much exertion on the treated body part can be resumed almost immediately. Doctors typically restrict exercise and even therapeutic activity for a few weeks, then slowly resume exercise. Many, if not most, patients are back to full exercise within six weeks.