Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a form of regenerative medicine administered by injection that involves using a patient’s own blood cells to accelerate healing in a specific area. In order to understand PRP therapy as a treatment, we must first identify what PRP is. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) consists of two elements: platelets and plasma. Platelets are a type of blood cell that plays an important role in healing throughout the body. While platelets are commonly known for their clotting abilities, it is important to note that they also contain growth factors that encourage cell reproduction and can stimulate tissue regeneration which promotes healing of the area being targeted. Plasma, on the other hand, is the liquid portion of blood mostly made up of water and protein. Serving as a vehicle, plasma provides a means for red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to circulate through the body. Simply put, platelet-rich plasma is blood that contains more platelets than normal.
The process of creating platelet-rich plasma begins by taking a blood sample from the patient and placing it into a device called a centrifuge. This device is designed to rapidly spin the sample separating the platelets and concentrating them within the plasma. The active platelets are then injected directly into the injured or diseased body tissue sometimes using an ultrasound to guide the injection. The goal for this treatment is to increase the concentration of specific bio proteins or hormones called growth factors within the targeted area to aid in an accelerated healing process and increase the number of reparative cells produced in the body. Studies have shown that increasing the concentration of growth factors through PRP can shorten the recovery time for many injuries, decrease pain, and even encourage hair growth. Some other key advantages of PRP injections are that they can reduce the need for anti-inflammatories or stronger medications such as opioids.
Platelet-rich plasma injections are used for a range of conditions from sports injuries to hair loss. PRP can be used to treat a range of musculoskeletal injuries or conditions within the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. PRP can also be helpful in post-surgical healing and osteoarthritis regimens as well. Even athletes who suffer from chronic injuries that often take a long time to recover from such as tennis elbow or jumper’s knee can benefit from PRP injections and use them as a way to return to activities sooner. PRP injections can also be effective in treating male pattern baldness as a way to prevent hair loss and promote new hair growth alongside hair transplants.
Since PRP injections are made up of a patient’s own cells and plasma, the risk of an allergic reaction is much lower than with other injectable medications such as corticosteroids. With that being said, PRP injections can also be administered alone or used in conjunction with other pain management procedures depending on a patient’s needs. If you are interested in adding PRP injections into your pain management regimen, talk with your health care provider first to ensure that this treatment is right for you.
*Research for the different applications of PRP is promising and rapidly growing. Although the equipment used to produce PRP and the injections themselves have been cleared by the FDA, this procedure is considered investigational and has not been officially approved by the FDA for most uses. Since PRP is a substance derived from one’s own blood, it is not considered a drug. FDA clearance means that doctors can prescribe and administer PRP if they believe it’s in the best interest of the patient. However, lack of the FDA approval means that PRP treatments may not be covered by insurance.