What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?

At ClinTech, we are always looking for new innovations in orthopedic and spine care in order to give our patients the highest level of care. We are happy to offer regenerative medicine to promote healing, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy?

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been gaining more recognition in recent years as more and more professional athletes have been using it to treat their injuries. To understand what PRP is, you must first understand the components of the blood. Blood is composed of plasma (the liquid part of blood), red cells, white cells, and platelets. Platelets are imperative for clotting blood, but also host hundreds of growth factors, a type of protein that is essential for healing. PRP involves taking the patient’s blood and separating out the platelets from the other blood cells and increasing their volume through centrifugation. The enhanced platelets are then combined with the blood again to be injected into the patient.

How Does PRP Work?

There is still more research needed to fully understand the reason why PRP works, but thus far, studies indicate that PRP injections may speed the healing process. The theory is that because the injected blood has such a high concentration of platelets (from 5 to 10 times that of normal blood), it encourages wounds to heal.

What is PRP Used For?

Research continues to be done on a variety of uses for platelet-rich plasma therapy, there are some areas that have been studied more extensively, such as:

  • For hair loss: Believe it or not, PRP has been injected into the scalp to help with hair growth and hair loss prevention. In 2014, research showed that PRP was effective at treating androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness.
  • Treating tendon injuries: The tendons are bands of tissue that connect your muscles to your bones. Because they are tough and thick, it is typical for them to take a long time to heal. Platelet-rich plasma therapy has been used to treat tendon injuries, including tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, and jumper’s knee.
  • For acute injuries: In particular for professional athletes, there are certain acute injuries that make it difficult to perform and require a lot of rest to heal. Doctors have used PRP injections to treat acute sports injuries such as pull hamstrings and knee sprains.
  • Postsurgical healing: After surgery, a doctor may use PRP to speed the healing process, such as from a torn tendon or ligament.
  • For osteoarthritis: At ClinTech, we treat many people with osteoarthritis, and platelet-rich plasma therapy may be an effective treatment for them. One 2015 study found that PRP injections were more effective than the traditional therapy, hyaluronic acid injections.

Preparing for PRP Injections

If you are coming into our spine clinic for a PRP injection, there aren’t many ways you will need to prepare yourself. Make sure to ask your orthopedic specialist any questions you have about the process so that you can feel comfortable. In addition, if your doctor thinks it’s best, you may need a topical numbing solution applied before the injection. Alternatively, your doctor may mix a local anesthetic in with the PRP to reduce any discomfort. If this is the case, make sure to talk to your surgeon in advance to determine how to best prepare.

What Does the PRP Injection Process Look Like?

Generally, the whole process won’t take more than an hour of your time, including creating the platelet-rich plasma. We will start by collecting a sample of your blood, the size of which will depend on where we plan to inject it. If it is a larger surface area, we will need more blood, but in general, we will not need a very large sample.

After it is drawn, we will put the blood in a centrifuge. Essentially, this is a machine that will separate the blood components by spinning very quickly for roughly 15 minutes. A lab tech will then take the separated plasma and prepare it with the platelets for injection. Then, we may require an ultrasound where we plan to inject you to pinpoint a more specific area. From there, your doctor will inject you with the PRP.

Side Effects of PRP

As with any treatment involving an injection, there are potential side effects. That being said, platelet-rich plasma therapy is an autologous treatment, meaning that it involves substances taken from your body. This means that an allergic reaction is significantly less likely than treatments that involve other medications, such as cortisone. However, getting an injection comes with some risks of side effects, including:

  • Infection
  • Pain at injection site
  • Nerve damage
  • Tissue damage

Recovery Time After PRP

After your PRP injection, you may need to rest the affected area in the case that it is an injury, but in general, you will be able to go about your day as normal after the procedure. You may not initially be able to tell the difference after you receive an injection. However, you may notice after a few weeks that you are healing faster than normal.

At ClinTech, our desire to always offer our patients with the innovative solutions to their orthopedic issues has led us to specialize in regenerative medicine. We would happy to help you explore these options. If you are wondering whether or not platelet-rich plasma therapy is right for your condition, contact us for a consultation!