Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP):
Platelet rich plasma (abbreviated PRP) is a new treatment used for some common orthopedic conditions. PRP is a concentration of platelet cells taken from your blood, and these platelets have growth factors that may help in the healing process of chronic injuries. Growth factors are chemicals that signal the body to initiate a healing response. By injecting PRP into areas of an injury, the hope is to stimulate and optimize your body's ability to heal the chronic conditions.
What PRP Can Be Used For:
PRP has been used in operating rooms for several decades to help with wound healing, and to stimulate bone formation in spinal fusion surgery
. Recently, PRP has been used in outpatient settings for treatment of common overuse conditions including:
How PRP Is Obtained:
PRP is obtained from the patient. Blood is withdrawn from a vein in the patient's arm and the blood is placed in a centrifuge, a machine that spins at a high speed to separate the different types of blood cells. The physician extracts the platelet-rich portion of the blood, and injects this into the area of injury.
How PRP Is Injected:
PRP injections are given as soon as the blood has been spun and the platelets separated. Some physicians may choose to add an "activating agent," usually either thrombin or calcium chloride, while some inject just the platelets. Studies have shown that the tendons being injected can also activate the PRP, so the activating agent may not be necessary.
There is no clear science to justify a particular quantity of PRP and number of injections needed. Most physicians perform one injection, although sometimes PRP injections are given as a series of injections over a span of several weeks.
We know from laboratory studies that PRP can help increase certain growth factors that are important in the healing process. What we do not know is if this makes any difference in healing when PRP is injected into an injured part of the body.
Clinical studies that have been done so far do not clearly demonstrate if PRP is more effective than other treatments. While there are reports of cases of success, it is not known if these successes are better, or worse, than other standard treatments. Currently, investigations are underway to determine if PRP is more helpful than other treatments for chronic tendonitis.
If You Want PRP:
PRP injections can be done in a physician's office. The procedure takes about 30 minutes in order to withdraw the blood, spin the blood in the centrifuge, and inject the PRP into the injured area.
Finding a physician who provides PRP injections can be a challenge, but most commonly these are offered by orthopedic physicians who specialize in the care of chronic sports injuries.
PRP injections are not covered by most insurance plans, so there is usually a fee for providing this service. If your insurance does not cover these injections, you can try to appeal to the insurance provider, but because there is little scientific evidence to support PRP use, the likelihood of coverage may be low.
Most physicians charge between $500 and $1,000 per injection, although I have also heard of fees up to $2,500. Fees for PRP injections vary widely, and you may be able to work out a payment with your physician.
Risks of PRP:
Side effects are uncommon, but they are possible. Whenever a needle is inserted through the skin, infection can occur. The other more common side effect of PRP injections is an increase in inflammation and pain after the injection.
PRP injections are not recommended in individuals with bleeding disorders, those taking anti-coagulation medications (e.g. Coumadin), or those who have cancer, active infections, or are pregnant.