What is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Platelet-Rich Plasma, or PRP, is produced from your own blood. The platelets are the cells in our body that contain nutrients and growth factors, which stimulate the normal wound healing process, e.g. the same way that your skin heals after a scrape. With PRP, we extract a very high concentration of platelets from your own blood (over 500% more platelets than normal blood). This way, we can stimulate the healing of a chronically injured tissue.
How does PRP therapy work?
To prepare PRP, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins and automatically produces the PRP. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes and increases the concentration of platelets and growth factors up to 500%. When PRP is injected into the damaged area, it stimulates the tendon or ligament to activate the healing cascade. As a result new collagen begins to form in the injured tissue. As this collagen matures, it becomes stronger and tighter, and eventually allows the tendon or ligament to withstand the stress of daily and sports related activities.
What are the potential benefits?
Patients can see a significant improvement in symptoms. This may eliminate the need for more aggressive treatments such as long term medication or surgery, as well as a remarkable return of function. In addition, PRP has been reported to accelerate tissue healing by as much as 50%.
I've heard of cortisone shots. Is this the same?
Studies have shown that cortisone injections may actually weaken tissue. Cortisone shots may provide temporary pain relief and stop inflammation, but they do not provide long term healing. PRP therapy heals and strengthens these tendons and ligaments, strengthening and thickening the tissue up to 40% in some cases.
What can be treated?
PRP injections can be performed in tendons and ligaments all over the body. Sports injuries, any appropriate tendon injury that your physician feels would benefit from PRP can be treated, including tennis elbow, ACL tears, rotator cuff tears, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome may all be effectively treated with PRP. In addition, PRP has been reported to have an anti-inflammatory response when used for osteoarthritis.
How many treatments are necessary and how often is this therapy administered?
While response to treatment vary, most people will experience significant improvement in symptoms after only 1 injection. In severe cases, a second injection may be needed. Seldomly will three or more injection be recommended. Each set of treatment is spaced approximately 6 to 12 weeks apart. There is no limit to the number of treatments you can have; the risks and side effects do not change with the number of injections.
Is PRP right for me?
If you have a tendon or ligament injury and traditional methods have not provided relief, then PRP therapy may be the solution. The procedure is less aggressive and less expensive than surgery. It will heal tissue with minimal or no scarring and prevent further degeneration of the tissues. Ask one of our doctors at Andrews Sports Medicine if PRP therapy is right for you.
Are there any special instructions?
You are restricted from the use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) one week prior to the procedure and throughout the course of treatments. Initially, the procedure may cause some localized soreness and discomfort. Most patients only require some extra-strength Tylenol to help with the pain. Ice and heat may be applied to the area as needed. After the first week after the procedure, patients will typically start a rehabilitation program with physical therapy. However, aggressive physical activity is discouraged.
How soon can I go back to regular physical activities?
PRP therapy helps regenerate tendons and ligaments but it is not a quick fix. This therapy stimulates the growth and repair of tendons and ligaments, and requires time and rehabilitation. Through regular visits, your doctor will determine when you are able to resume regular physical activities. On average, patients return to sports between 8 to 12 weeks after the PRP injection.
Does insurance pay for PRP?
Most insurance companies do not cover the PRP injection. However, most patients can use their healthcare flexible spending account to pay for the procedure.