Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are a treatment method that uses components of the body’s own blood to stimulate healing. Platelets, most commonly associated with coagulation (clotting), are also, according to recent research, able to assist in mending and strengthening damaged tissues by increasing certain growth factors. During the normal healing process, the body uses platelets to promote the growth of new tissue and repair injuries. By supplementing platelet content, the healing process is accelerated. There is ongoing research on the efficacy of PRP injections, and some medical professionals remain skeptical about their value.
Conditions Treated with PRP Injections
Platelet-rich plasma injections can be used to treat a wide range of orthopedic conditions, including:
- Ligament sprains or tears
- Postsurgical healing from tendon or ligament repair
Benefits of PRP Injections
There are several benefits to using PRP therapy. These include the fact that the platelet-rich plasma being injected is autologous (comes from the patient), so there is no risk of cross-reactivity, immune reaction or disease transmission. PRP injections, unlike surgery, are only very minimally invasive, yet, unlike corticosteroid injections, PRP injections actually facilitate healing.
The PRP Procedure
During the PRP injection procedure, which usually takes place in the doctor’s office with the assistance of ultrasound imaging, a small amount of blood is withdrawn from the patient. This blood sample is processed in a centrifuge to separate its various elements and concentrate the platelets. The resulting plasma is up to five times more concentrated with platelets than natural blood. Once concentrated, the platelets are loaded into a sterile syringe and injected into the patient, along with some of the patient’s whole blood, used to activate the process.
This procedure is performed under local anesthetic. Most patients experience little or no discomfort from the injection, but the site is expected to be inflamed and sore for about 48 hours. Benefits of the procedure can take up to 6 weeks to occur.