Platelet rich plasma injections have been shown to improve joint function and relieve pain resulting from a variety of conditions. Platelet rich plasma therapy has been around since 1987 and was first used after open-heart surgery.
What is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?
There are many treatment options for this type of therapy, everything from vampire facials and hair restoration to sports injuries and joint disorders. Because of the regenerative properties that platelet rich plasma offers, it is fast becoming a sort after medical procedure, especially when it comes to joint pain.
A person’s blood contains many components including red and white blood cells and plasma. Platelets are known for their role in blood clotting. They contain growth factors, which are proteins that aid in the healing of injuries. Studies have shown that concentrating these growth factors and injecting them into the affected area can speed up the rate at which the body heals itself.
Platelet rich plasma therapy may be used to treat conditions like:
- Injured tendons
- Injured ligaments and muscles
- Tissue damage from surgery
- Knee arthritis
- Rotator cuff injuries
While the therapy is relatively new, it has a strong following. Many famous athletes have used platelet rich plasma therapy to help them recover from injury including basketball player Kobe Bryant and tennis's Rafael Nadal. Both sports stars used platelet rich plasma to treat knee ailments.
How Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy Works
The procedure starts out with the patient getting between 40 and 60cc of their blood drawn. That blood is then placed in a machine called a centrifuge, which spins it at a high speed for between 10 and 15 minutes. The result is that the different types of blood cells that make up the blood are separated; the portion with the platelets is then extracted. The concentrated platelets are injected at the site of the injury. The doctor uses ultrasound image guidance to guide the needle to the precise point where the injection will be most helpful.
(Note: If your physician wants to use a manual approach for inserting the needle, the injection may be placed in the wrong spot and be of no benefit to you. Insist on image guidance or seek a 2nd opinion)
The PRP preparation may contain up to 10 times the amount of platelets found in blood.
Platelet rich plasma therapy or PRP as it is commonly called, may be administered as one injection or in a series. It depends on the severity of the injury and how each person’s body responds to the therapy..
How Safe is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?
Since the platelet rich plasma preparation comes entirely from your blood, there will be will little risk of your body rejecting it or any other complications. Note that under normal circumstances, the body responds to soft tissue damage by sending platelets to the injury site to promote healing. PRP is merely a way of enhancing this natural reaction by sending even more platelets. The concentration of platelets results in there being more growth factors at the location of the injury, which enables faster healing.
This therapy does come with a small degree of risk. Whenever a needle pierces the skin, there is always the potential for infection. Inflammation is a common side effect; however, inflammation is a result of the body's own healing efforts.
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy Compared to Joint Replacement Surgery
Surgeries to replace joints are major procedures that should be reserved for the most serious and debilitating problems. They will require a hospital stay and a long recovery period, which means that you will have to take time off work. With PRP, there will be no need to stay in a hospital and the procedure can be performed in about two hours in a doctor's office if you allow for preparation and recovery time. In many cases, patients are able to return to work immediately after having PRP performed.
How much your therapy costs will depend on the number of injections you receive. Expect to pay around $500 for each treatment. Keep in mind that the average cost of knee replacement surgery in the United States is $49,500 and that procedure comes with a lengthy rehabilitation period during which you may be unable to work.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition.