What is a platelet-rich plasma injection?

Plasma is the liquid part of blood. In the plasma are small cells such as platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Platelets help to clot blood at injury sites; they also help to heal the wounds where they form clots. Growth factors in platelets are integral to the healing of wounds or other injuries. Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, simply has more platelets than are normally present in the blood, which theoretically increases the healing properties. Your blood is drawn then the plasma is separated and concentrated to create the desired platelet concentration. Platelet-rich plasma injections are a relatively young treatment and research is limited. However, scientific studies conducted in laboratories have shown potential for increasing healing.

Am I a candidate for platelet-rich plasma injection?

You are a candidate to receive platelet-rich plasma injections if you have tendonitis, muscle or ligament sprain, arthritis, or surgery to repair a torn ligament or muscle. Research suggests that PRP injections for chronic tendon injuries (tendonitis) are more successful than for acute injuries like sprains or tears. It appears that elbow tendonitis (tennis elbow) has been effectively treated with platelet-rich plasma injections. If you have trouble with your blood clotting, this may not be the best treatment option for you. Be sure to tell your doctor if you take blood thinners or have allergies to local anesthetic medications.

How long will platelet-rich plasma injection take?

The lengthiest part of the procedure is preparing the platelet-rich plasma injection. Your blood will be drawn, spun down and separated, and put back together in the desired concentration. On the day of the injection, your skin at the injection site will be cleansed and likely numbed with lidocaine, which is the same medicine your dentist uses to numb your gum and teeth prior to filling a cavity. A large needle is inserted through the skin into the underlying joint or tissues, and the platelet-rich plasma is injected. Additional lidocaine or other local anesthetic is injected in the same area to help with pain control following the injection.

How long will it take to recover from a platelet-rich plasma injection?

Be prepared to have more pain for the week or two following the platelet-rich plasma injection. The injection is not intended to reduce pain immediately, but rather to speed healing of an injury. For this reason, improvement is slower than for other procedures. Your doctor will instruct you on pain management strategies after the procedure. While the full benefits of platelet-rich plasma injections have yet to be proven, it is clear that there are no more risks associated with platelet-rich plasma injections than with cortisone injections. Be sure to check your insurance coverage prior to scheduling this procedure; at this time, not many insurance plans cover platelet-rich plasma injections.

Reference:

Kelly, F. (2011). Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Retrieved from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00648