Do Platelet-Rich Plasma injections work?

Pain Management, Sports Medicine

 

Based on early results, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections promote faster healing.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections transfer blood plasma rich in platelets and other growth-factor proteins to other areas of the body that are fighting disease or recovering from injury or surgery.

An illustration of a test tube with platelet separatedWhat happens during a PRP injection?

During the procedure, the doctor draws approximately 30 milliliters of blood from the patient. The blood is placed in a centrifuge, which spins for 5 to 10 minutes to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the red blood cells.

The physician uses ultrasound-guided imaging to identify the injured ligaments and tendons. After determining the best location, the physician injects the plasma in the diseased or damaged area to promote healing.

The entire process takes about 30 minutes. Watch a video here.

What are platelets?

Platelets are blood cells that help your blot clot to stop the bleeding. After a cut, your body sends platelets to the wound and starts the clotting process.  As the cells begin to adhere to the end of the lacerated blood vessel, they trigger the body’s bone marrow to make and send more platelets to the injured area to create a blood clot.

The growth-factor proteins and cytokines secreted by the platelets increase collagen production and stimulate blood flow as they form clots and scabs. When these secretions are injected into injuries at concentrations six to 10 times higher than normal levels found in the bloodstream, they speed the healing process.


Are PRP injections effective for everyone?

Unfortunately, not everyone benefits from PRP injections.

People who suffer from severe arthritis or cartilage damage from a serious traumatic injury are not good candidates for PRP treatment. These types of injuries often require surgery.

PRP injections do benefit adults of all ages who experience moderate joint pain which can be relieved by over-the-counter medications or physical therapy.

Sports medicine providers also use PRP injections to help athletes return to their games faster after injuries.

What conditions do PRP injections treat?

PRP injections can be used to treat:

  • Sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Jumper’s knee
  • Pulled hamstrings
  • Impingements
  • Bursitis

PRP procedures used during surgery promote the faster recovery of the surgical site.

Do PRP injections hurt?

During the PRP procedure, the physician may administer a local anesthetic to minimize the patient’s discomfort.

Some people feel mild or moderate pain at the injection site for 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure. Other people say they only experienced slight discomfort.

The amount of pain a person experiences during a PRP procedure depends on his or her sensitivity to pain, the location of the injection site, the amount of disease or inflammation at the injection site, and the person’s overall health.

PRP injections work differently from cortisone injections.

The purpose of a cortisone injection is the temporary relief of pain while a PRP injection promotes healing.

A person may notice immediate pain relief after a cortisone shot. However, a person who receives a PRP injection may wait 6 weeks or more before they notice a reduction in pain.

Often, cortisone shots provide pain relief until the patient has surgery. PRP therapy is administered to promote healing and prevent further joint and soft-tissue damage.

A successful PRP treatment can eliminate the need for surgery.

How long does it take to recover from a PRP injection?

All healing takes time.

Generally, recovery from a PRP injection is similar to recovery from a minimally invasive surgical procedure. But, each person’s body heals at a different rate.

After resting for the first week, patients often do easy stretching exercises and progress to low-impact movements. At the 6-week follow-up appointment, physicians release the majority of patients to normal activity. It may take longer for the doctor to grant permission for participation in advanced or extreme sports.

Many people need a second injection to experience significant pain reduction. Some people need a series of four shots before they feel pain-free. During PRP treatments, healthcare providers advise patients NOT to take anti-inflammatory medications, which can interfere with the effectiveness of the platelet-rich plasma injections.

What are the side effects of PRP injections?

Sometimes PRP injections cause scars and fibrosis in connective tissues. During clinical trials, some participants reported they experienced mild nausea and dizziness.

When should I consider PRP therapy?

If you have endured joint or tendon pain for longer than 3 months and have tried other treatments without results, you may benefit from PRP injections.

Does Bone & Joint offer PRP injections?

Bone & Joint’s pain management specialists offer PRP injections. They believe PRP injections may:

  • Heal chronic injuries
  • Offer treatment alternatives for difficult conditions
  • Slow disease progression
  • Speed healing
  • Help patients avoid surgery

Will my insurance cover PRP injections?

Insurance coverage depends on the terms of your policy and your insurance carrier. The injections may be subject to deductibles or co-pays. Since more clinically significant studies are needed, some insurances classify PRP procedures as elective treatments.

If you are interested in platelet-rich plasma therapy, talk to your insurance company or a representative from Bone & Joint’s Patient Advocate Team. They can help you determine costs and offer you financing options for the procedure.

Sources:
Sandeep PatelMSMandeep S. DhillonMS, FAMS†Sameer Aggarwal... Treatment With Platelet-Rich Plasma Is More Effective Than Placebo for Knee Osteoarthritis A Prospective, Double-Blind, Randomized Trial, Volume: 41 issue: 2, page(s): 356-364

Article first published online: January 8, 2013; Issue published: February 1, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546512471299

Christophe CharoussetMD*Amine ZaouiMDLaurence BellaicheMD, Benjamin BouyerMD, Are Multiple Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections Useful for Treatment of Chronic Patellar Tendinopathy in Athletes? A Prospective Study, First Published February 11, 2014, Research Article

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