Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy

PRP therapy is a treatment that uses components of your own blood to treat orthopedic conditions that affect your body including chronic pain from osteoarthritis and tendon disorders, such as tendinopathies, eg. tennis elbow or jumper’s knee. Research suggests that the use of PRP for certain orthopedic conditions is an effective therapy and should be considered as part of a treatment plan.

How does PRP therapy work?

PRP uses different fractions of our own blood that contain an increased amount of platelets. These platelets carry alpha granules, which contain a lot of growth factors that modulate or change processes in the body. The fraction of platelets and growth factors we choose to include will determine what the PRP therapy specifically does for each individual.

Learn more about PRP treatment options

PRP offers multiple treatment options that can be personalized to your condition, but it is important to note that not all PRP treatments are created equal. Speak with a UCHealth specialist about what treatment option is best for you.

If you take away white or red blood cells from the PRP formulation, it becomes anti-inflammatory and may decrease a patient’s pain and inflammation. This is called leukocyte-poor (white blood cell-poor) platelet rich-plasma therapy.

This distinction is important, because if you include white blood cells and platelets in PRP, called leukocyte-rich (white blood cell containing PRP), it would cause inflammation – the opposite. Inflammation brings cells and other resources into the area of injection. Sometimes, creating inflammation is beneficial. If you have a chronic condition such as tendinopathy, for example, you can bring attention to it by creating this inflammation. Both inflammatory or anti-inflammatory types of PRP work with different cells and growth factors available in PRP.

There is also a separate way to concentrate other growth factors that make the PRP treatment anti-inflammatory. One growth factor is called IL-1ra (interleukin-1 receptor antagonist). This is found in the body and works through a series of steps to decrease inflammation in the body.

Much to the same extent, another anti-inflammatory growth factor called a2M (alpha-2-Macroglobulin) is found in our blood. You can concentrate this larger molecule, which in effect can remove enzymes present that can damage your tissue and can help create an anti-inflammatory environment.

How well does PRP work?

When compared to other chronic tendon disorder treatments, clinical trials show that PRP outperforms other types of treatments such as corticosteroids and viscosupplementation (hyaluronic acid).

Both corticosteroids and PRP are very effective treatments. But corticosteroids can suppress your immune system locally at the injection/pain site, whereas PRP will not. Corticosteriods may also weaken your collagen structures after multiple treatments. With PRP, there’s no known disadvantage to receiving multiple doses.

What is PRP treatment good for?

PRP is a reasonable treatment option for symptoms of osteoarthritis, inflammation, and tendinopathies such as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis), certain types of hip pain (gluteus medius tendinopathy), and plantar fasciitis.

How much does PRP cost? Is it covered by insurance?

PRP costs approximately $900 for the first treatment area and around $1,100 for two treatment areas. It is not paid for by insurance.

How long does it take for PRP to work? What is the patient experience like?

Many people start to experience symptom relief a few days after their PRP treatment. For some, it can take up to six weeks for PRP to work depending on their condition. Treatment lasts a minimum of six weeks, to an average time of three to six months and at maximum approximately one year.

For the PRP treatment process, you will typically visit a clinic where an assistant will draw a small amount of blood for testing (about one to three vials of blood). The blood is then processed in a machine that separates and concentrates the PRP. These platelets (along with an anti-coagulant) are then injected back into your body during the same visit. The total visit on average takes 60 minutes.

Is PRP treatment safe?

Yes. PRP uses fractions of the patient’s own blood and reintroduces them to the body with no additives other than an anti-coagulant. PRP simply removes the parts of the blood that aren’t effective in the treatment process and concentrates the beneficial parts.