During the past several years, much has been written about a preparation called platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and its potential effectiveness in the treatment of injuries.
Many famous athletes — Tiger Woods, tennis star Rafael Nadal, and several others — have received PRP for various problems, such as sprained knees and chronic tendon injuries. These types of conditions have typically been treated with medications, physical therapy, or even surgery. Some athletes have credited PRP with their being able to return more quickly to competition.
What Is Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP)?
Although blood is mainly a liquid (called plasma), it also contains small solid components (red cells, white cells, and platelets.) The platelets are best known for their importance in clotting blood. However, platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in the healing of injuries.
PRP is plasma with many more platelets than what is typically found in blood. The concentration of platelets — and, thereby, the concentration of growth factors — can be 5 to 10 times greater (or richer) than usual.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood must first be drawn from a patient. The platelets are separated from other blood cells and their concentration is increased during a process called centrifugation. Then the increased concentration of platelets is combined with the remaining blood.
Although it is not exactly clear how PRP works, laboratory studies have shown that the increased concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process.
To speed healing, the injury site is treated with the PRP preparation. This can be done in one of two ways:
PRP can be carefully injected into the injured area. For example, in Achilles tendonitis, a condition commonly seen in runners and tennis players, the heel cord can become swollen, inflamed, and painful. A mixture of PRP and local anesthetic can be injected directly into this inflamed tissue. Afterwards, the pain at the area of injection may actually increase for the first week or two, and it may be several weeks before the patient feels a beneficial effect.
PRP may also be used to improve healing after surgery for some injuries. For example, an athlete with a completely torn heel cord may require surgery to repair the tendon. Healing of the torn tendon can possibly be improved by treating the injured area with PRP during surgery. This is done by preparing the PRP in a special way that allows it to actually be stitched into torn tissues.
PRP has been used for over 20 years in numerous surgical fields to enhance bone grafting, accelerate wound healing and reduce the risk of infection after surgery. Medical research and intensive studies are leading the way to the tremendous benefits offered by PRP for joint pain, soft tissue injuries, low back disc degeneration, and arthritis, with the goal of enhancing the body’s ability to naturally heal itself.
PRP is a next-generation injection procedure commonly used to treat the following conditions:
Osteoarthritis of the Knee, Shoulder, Hip and Spine
Rotator Cuff Tears
Chronic Plantar Fasciitis
Pelvic Pain and Instability
Back and Neck Injuries
How long does it take?
The procedure takes approximately one to two hours, including preparation and recovery time. Performed safely in a medical office, PRP therapy relieves pain without the risks of surgery, general anesthesia, or hospital stays and without a prolonged recovery. In fact, most people return to their jobs or usual activities right after the procedure.
Is there any pain?
Some patients report swelling and stiffness or mild to moderate discomfort lasting a few hours after the injection. This is a normal response and is a sign that the treatment is working. Over time, the affected area will begin to heal and strengthen and you will experience considerably less pain.
How many treatments will I need?
Regenerative medicine is not a “quick fix” and is designed to promote long-term healing of the injured tissue. While most patients require only one injection, the regeneration of collagen takes 4-6 months and may require multiple injections. Pain and functional recovery will be assessed 2-3 weeks after the injection to determine further therapy needs. The total number of treatments you will need depends on your age, the area being treated and the amount of pain you were experiencing before starting therapy.
Will My Insurance Cover It?
While PRP has helped thousands of patients over the years, it is still relatively new and as a result is not yet covered by many insurance plans. However, some parts of the treatment may be covered. Since the cost for and types of treatment required varies significantly from patient to patient, we will provide you with pricing info during your initial consultation, based on your specific needs and situation.
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