Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP, is blood plasma with concentrated platelets and other growth factors. The concentrated platelets found in PRP contain huge reservoirs of bioactive proteins, including growth factors and signaling proteins that are vital to initiate and accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. These bioactive proteins initiate connective tissue healing in tissues such as Achilles tendon, bone and articular cartilage regeneration and repair, promote development of new blood vessels, and stimulate the wound healing process.
The PRP signals the body to send in stem cells to repair the area of injury. PRP injections are sometimes done under ultrasound guidance. This is done for precise localized delivery of these healing factors into injured ligaments, muscles, and joints.
Platelet Rich Plasma therapy is a treatment option for various orthopaedic injuries and conditions, which have traditionally required surgery or other extensive treatments. PRP injections are being utilized in orthopaedics with increasing frequency and effectiveness. Injuries currently being treated with the PRP therapy are arthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle and other joints. PRP also is utilized for soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis, muscle sprains and tears, and various types of ligament injuries. These include common tendon injuries such as Achilles tendonitis. PRP is also used to treat various injuries and conditions affecting (joint) injuries.
To prepare PRP, about 20cc's of blood is taken from the patient’s arm. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins and separates the platelets form the rest of the blood components. The entire process takes less than 8 minutes and increases the concentration of platelets and growth factors. Using the patient’s own blood, specially prepared platelets are taken and re-injected into the affected area. These platelets release special growth factors that lead to tissue healing. PRP injections actually heal the area over a period of time. This can be anywhere from one to three months.
The human body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, and by re-injecting concentrated platelets, we are facilitating the natural healing process. The PRP injections are calling in stem cells to repair the area. When performing these injections, we must do whatever we can to maximize stem cell release to optimize healing. We know certain factors diminish stem cell release such as smoking and alcohol intake. Obviously avoiding these pitfalls will do nothing but increase the success of the procedure. The platelets work by causing an inflammatory reaction. If we somehow diminish this inflammatory reaction than we may significantly decrease the chances of having a good result. For this reason, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Aleve, Motrin, ibuprophen etc. are not recommended. This restriction should be in place for about 4-6 weeks. The use of omega 3-fish oil and other natural anti-inflammatory agents do not seem to work the same way as the NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and are thus not restricted.
The number of injections performed depends upon the severity and the type of condition being treated. Age also seems to have an effect on the number of injections given. Typically, younger people generally need fewer injections for the same condition than a person who is older. Tylenol and possibly a mild narcotic usually handle this pain. The pain may start up again only later to go away. A good analogy is that of a roller coaster where the initial few days are like the big drop on the roller coaster than the remaining few days are like smaller dips on a roller coaster.