Platelet Rich Plasma
Many patients have heard of platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections, but do not know when or why they might be used. This has been a hot topic in the world of sports with many professional athletes using PRP for injures. Platelets are a component in blood, which aid in clotting. They also contain proteins (growth factors) which aid in the healing process. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood and contains platelets as well as white cells and red cells. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is plasma with a high concentration of platelets than what is typically found in blood. The concentration of platelets and growth factors can be concentrated 5 to 10 times.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood must first be drawn from a patient. The platelets are separated from other blood cells and spun down to be concentrated. Then the increased concentration of platelets is combined with the remaining blood. The mechanism for PRP and healing is not fully understood but laboratory studies have shown that the increased concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process.
PRP is a relatively new treatment and studies are currently being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of PRP treatment. Early studies are showing success in certain conditions. For example, tennis elbow is a condition with swelling of an elbow tendon. PRP can be injected into the tendon. The tendon may be more painful for a short time after the injection, before it starts healing. After several weeks there will be improvement in the pain and function. PRP is used in the office for injections into many tendons, and joints. PRP can also be used during some surgeries.
Even though the success of PRP therapy is yet unknown, there is little risk. PRP is a patient’s own blood. The risk is similar to cortisone injections. Risks include infection, tissue damage, and nerve injuries. Most of these injections in the clinic are done under ultrasound guidance to ensure proper placement.
If you are considering treatment with PRP, be sure to check your eligibility with your health insurance carrier. Many insurance plans do not provide reimbursement.