Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are part of the PRP therapy being used in sports medicine today but it has been used in dental and oral surgery since the mid-90s. High profile athletes like Tiger Woods, Takashi Saito and Hines Ward have received PRP injections after experiencing sports injuries and have helped them go back to their athletic form to win championships in their respective sports.
Here is a basic introduction to what it is all about.
What is PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) uses a patient’s own blood components, in this case his platelets, to stimulate a healing response in damaged tissues.
The body recruits platelets and white blood cells in the blood to start healing when there is injury or tissue damage. Platelets are usually associated with the function of stopping bleeding but they also contain more than 30 intrinsic growth factors and other hormones that stimulate healing of damaged tissues, which all play an important role in cell replication, neovascularization and collagen production. All these activities contribute to the repair of tendon, skeletal muscle and bone.
Modern technology has allowed us to concentrate platelets from the blood and inject this solution directly to injured tissue to induce growth factor release, stimulating the same healing response in a more potent form.
By enhancing this natural process within the body, PRP injections may lead to a faster, more efficient and thorough restoration of the injured tissue to its normal, healthy state.
What conditions do PRP injections help treat?
Studies have shown that PRP injections help treat the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis of the knee, shoulder, hip and spine
- Rotator cuff tears
- Chronic plantar fasciitis
- ACL injuries
- Pelvic pain and instability
- Back and neck injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Ankle sprains
How are PRP injections administered?
To create PRP, a small amount of your blood is drawn, around 30mL, and placed in a centrifuge to separate platelets from other blood components. A laboratory technician does this process manually.
Once the PRP has been prepared, it is then injected into and around the point of injury, significantly jumpstarting the healing process.
Since a patient’s own blood is used, this is considered autologous (self) blood therapy, having no risk of transmissible infection and allergic reaction.
How long until you can see results?
The healing response is expected to work between six to eight weeks, with 12 weeks before you feel the total effects of the injection. This depends on the injection area and the severity/chronicity of the problem, whereby multiple injections maybe necessary.
Physical rehabilitation therapy is required to bring the body back to its full functional capacity.
Can PRP injections be used as a substitute for surgery?
Not necessarily. Chronic conditions may respond to PRP injections, eliminating the need for surgery, but every case is different and it will be impossible to predict which cases will respond to therapy or not.
PRP injections combined with physical therapy may improve the chance of healing faster and lessen the risk of worsening injuries, decreasing the need for surgical intervention.