A small percent of blood is made up of platelets. These cell fragments help with clotting and have growth factors that promote tissue and cell healing. When injected into the affected area, PRP may speed up the healing of injuries. PRP injections contain a concentration of platelets that may be 5-10 times greater than what's normally in blood.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) first gained attention because of use by many top athletes for the purpose of speeding up the healing process, especially with joint-related injuries. Involving the use of blood that's processed to include a higher concentration of beneficial platelets, the therapy may help ease pain linked to various joint problems and chronic tendon injuries.
How PRP Injections Work
It's believed platelet rich plasma works by encouraging faster tissue healing. The injections are prepared by using the patient's own blood. The collected blood is spun (centrifuged) to create a mixture that's rich in platelets. Often delivered with a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort, the injection is placed directly into the injured area.
Platelet Rich Plasma After Surgery
Platelet rich plasma may be used to treat the surgery site during and after the procedure. This form of PRP therapy is usually used with procedures involving joints that have been weakened by tendons tears. The PRP is administered in a way that involves "sewing" or stitching it directly into the damaged tissues.
Results from PRP Therapy
When used in injection form, pain in the affected area may actually increase slightly during the first few weeks after it's given. The beneficial effects of the injection often become apparent beyond that point as tissues heal. When used during surgery, patients may experience faster healing and enjoy a shorter recovery period.
Conditions Managed with PRP Therapy
Chronic tendon injuries are the most common conditions PRP has been use for at this point. Such conditions may include Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendon inflammation ("jumper's knee"), and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), a common overuse injury. Additional conditions treated with PRP therapy may include:
When to Consider PRP Injections
PRP injections may accelerate the healing of both acute and chronic joint and tendon injuries. While not for every condition that may affect joints, the treatment tends to be more effective on patients who are generally in good health. PRP therapy may help professional and amateur athletes get back into the game faster. There's also research suggesting the injections may also make it easier for patients with chronic conditions to participate more in physical therapy.
Research on the use of platelet rich plasma therapy suggests it may be more effective for chronic tendon injuries, although patients have also reported positive results when the treatment is used in conjunction with surgery. Used in one form or another to promote cell regeneration since the late 1980s, PRP therapy may produce results lasting anywhere from several months to indefinitely, depending on how well tissues heal. Risks associated with the injections are minimal.