What is PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are a biological therapy that can be used to treat a variety of conditions. The material injected is derived from the patients own blood. The treatment relies on the fact that normal blood contains cells called platelets that are rich in growth factors. These cells can be concentrated as PRP and then injected into the affected area to induce a healing response that helps to relieve pain.
What can PRP treat?
We use PRP injections for two main conditions:
–Tendon problems (tendinopathies) such as Patella tendinopathy, Tennis elbow and achilles tendinopathy, that have failed to respond to other treatments. Before we recommend PRP we conduct a thorough assessment which may include appropriate scans to confirm the diagnosis. We do not usually recommend it as a first-line treatment, but rather consider it once a course of physiotherapy has proved unsuccessful.
–Arthritis – PRP injections can help relieve pain in arthritic joints. This is a relatively new use for PRP but one that has been researched in some detail and has shown great promise in many patients that we have treated.
What is the process?
Before starting a course of Platelet-Rich Plasma injections we advise the patient that any anti inflammatory medications should be stopped at least 10 days prior to the first injection.
The PRP injection is performed in our outpatient clinics. The whole procedure takes about 45 minutes, with most of this time spent preparing the PRP for injection.
First we draw some blood from the patient under strict sterile conditions. The precise amount varies depending on the area being treated. The blood sample is then spun down in a centrifuge to separate the blood components. The Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) component is separated and is injected under sterile conditions either with or without the use of ultrasound guidance, depending on the location. The platelets need to be activated to release the healing growth factors, and this usually happens when they come into contact with the damaged tissue.
No specific restrictions on activity are necessary after the injection, but we certainly do not recommend that patients be any more active than they are usually. We also advise our patients that in some cases a temporary flare-up in symptoms may occur lasting a few days, as the healing process is stimulated. This is not common.
Patients are reviewed after 4 weeks or so to look at the response. Further injections can be performed.