Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

What role do PRPs play in healing?

In recent years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the potential of platelet-rich plasma injections to speed healing from injuries and successfully hasten postsurgical recovery. Famous athletes, such as Tiger Woods, have received PRP for common sports injuries, such as chronic tendon injuries. Many athletes claim that PRP injections have helped them to return to their normal activity level more quickly than would otherwise have been possible. Because PRP injections have now joined medications, physical therapy, and surgery as an additional effective form of treatment, we should understand what they are and how they are used.

What are PRP injections?

The liquid portion of blood is called plasma. It contains many small components that fall into three categories: red cells, white cells, and platelets. Platelets are best known for their role in blood-clotting, but they also contain hundreds of proteins, known as growth factors, that are essential to the healing process. PRP is plasma has a much greater concentration of platelets (up to 5 to 10 times greater) due to the way it is produced. The patient’s blood is drawn and the platelets are separated from the rest of the blood content. These platelets are processed in a centrifuge to further concentrate them. They are then combined with the remaining blood and injected back into the patient.

Uses of PRP Injections

PRP injections are used primarily in two ways: to assist in healing an injury and to speed heeling after surgery. PRP injections may be used, for example, to treat a patient who has Achilles tendonitis, a condition in which the heel becomes swollen, inflamed, and painful. Although it may take several weeks for the patient to feel the beneficial effect of the PRP, the tendonitis usually heals much more quickly with PRP treatment than without it.

In patients whose tendons are completely torn, or ruptured, PRP injections may also speed healing after surgical repair. This can be accomplished by treating the injured area with PRP during surgery. In such cases, the solution is actually stitched into the torn tissue.

While research studies are underway to evaluate the effectiveness of PRP treatment statistically, those who work with, or are treated, with PRP injections testify to its worthiness as a method of treatment. As with all treatment methods, the effectiveness of PRP injections depends on the region of the body being treated, the general health of the patient, and the nature of the injury. Research results so far show that PRP is most helpful with chronic injuries.

For painful foot and ankle injuries that do not respond to home remedies within a few days, or for pain that is chronic, you should consult Dr. Hubbard, a trained and talented foot and ankle orthopedist.