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.
Platelet-rich plasma: components and inflammation
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.
What is a PRP injection?
Once platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is obtained from a patient’s blood sample, it is carefully injected into the targeted area which contains the diseased body tissue (such as a damaged knee joint or a tendon). In certain cases, doctors may use ultrasound guidance to ensure precise placement of the injection. Research indicates that the heightened levels of growth factors present in platelet-rich plasma from one’s own blood can stimulate and accelerate the healing process of the patient’s affected area. This acceleration may result in shortened recovery periods for injuries, reduced pain, and even the promotion of hair growth.
What are the benefits of PRP Therapy?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy has been used in various medical fields to address a wide range of conditions, from musculoskeletal conditions to cosmetic and plastic surgery. Some of the benefits associated with platelet-rich plasma therapy include:
- Enhanced Tissue Healing: The growth factors present in platelets help accelerate the healing process, promoting tissue repair and regeneration.
- Reduced Inflammation: PRP therapy has shown promising results in reducing inflammation, which is beneficial for conditions such as osteoarthritis and tendonitis.
- Non-Invasive Procedure: PRP therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that utilizes the patient’s own blood, reducing the risk of allergic reactions or rejection.
What are the risks of PRP therapy?
Since PRP injections are made up of your own blood and plasma, it is generally considered safe, but like any medical procedure, it does carry some inherent risks:
- Infection: Although rare, there is a small risk of infection at the injection site. Strict sterile techniques during the procedure help minimize this risk.
- Pain and Discomfort: Following PRP injections, some patients may experience temporary pain, discomfort, or soreness at the injection site. This is typically mild and resolves within a few days.
- Bleeding: Since PRP therapy involves injections, there is a minimal risk of bleeding at the injection site. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medications, it’s crucial to inform your healthcare provider beforehand.
- Tissue Damage: Improper technique or inaccurate placement of PRP injections may result in tissue damage, including nerve or blood vessel injury. It is important to have the procedure performed by a qualified and experienced healthcare professional.
- Allergic Reactions: While PRP therapy uses the patient’s own blood components, allergic reactions are still possible, although they are extremely rare.
It’s important to consult with a UCHealth doctor before undergoing PRP therapy to discuss your specific condition, potential risks, and any precautions that need to be taken based on your medical history. They can provide personalized guidance and help minimize the risks associated with the procedure.
FAQs about platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
How much does PRP therapy cost, and is it covered by insurance?
PRP costs approximately $900 for the first treatment area and around $1,100 for two treatment areas. It is typically not paid for by insurance.
How well does PRP work?
When compared to other chronic tendon disorder treatments, clinical trials show that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) outperforms other types of treatments such as corticosteroids and viscosupplementation (hyaluronic acid). 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 are the most common uses for PRP therapy?
PRP is a common 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. PRP can also be used to treat wounds and hair loss.
How long does it take for PRP to work?
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.
What happens during a PRP appointment?
During the PRP treatment process, a doctor 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 platelet-rich plasma (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 treatment is generally considered to be safe, as 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.
Are PRP injections painful?
PRP injections are typically considered to be a relatively painless treatment option. To ensure patient comfort, the injured area is initially numbed using lidocaine, making the actual injections only mildly uncomfortable. The effects of lidocaine usually wear off within a few hours, and patients may experience mild pain in affected area during the following days. However, the level of pain experienced after a PRP injection can vary depending on the condition. For PRP injections in knee, shoulder, or elbow joints, mild swelling and discomfort are commonly observed. However, injections of PRP into muscles or tendons tend to cause more pain than joint injections. This discomfort or pain can persist for 2-3 days or even longer.
Does PRP work for hair loss?
PRP therapy can improve the appearance and thickness of hair, but it won’t completely reverse hair loss. PRP therapy is most effective for patients with thinning hair or male or female pattern baldness. While new hair growth can last for 18 to 24 months, PRP is not permanent, so touch-up treatments are recommended approximately once a year.
Orthoinfo: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) (https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/platelet-rich-plasma-prp/)
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): National Library of Medicine. Platelet-Rich Plasma: New Performance Understandings and Therapeutic Considerations in 2020 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7589810/)
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Is platelet-rich plasma the secret to younger-looking skin? (https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/younger-looking/platelet-rich-plasma-secret-to-younger-skin)