What is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)?

Platelet-Rich Plasma and its Treatment Benefits

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a type of injection therapy that is performed by  concentrating the platelet cells of the blood. The procedure gained popularity following reports of professional athletes such as Tiger Woods and Stephen Curry receiving PRP injections after sustaining injuries. This procedure is increasingly being used in the treatment of post-surgical and sports-related injuries. It is also being used cosmetically to prevent signs of aging. But what exactly is this treatment and how does it work?

PRP Basics

To understand platelet-rich plasma, it is important to know what plasma is and the role it plays in the body.

Plasma is made up of water and proteins and helps red cells, white cells, and platelets to move throughout the body. Essentially, plasma is the liquid part of the blood. The platelets that circulate in the plasma are blood cells that help create clots and they also contain 7 crucial growth factors. Because of this, platelets inherently play a major role in the body’s natural healing process. In a 2013 publication, platelets were described as “playing a critical role in tissue repair and regeneration”.  The idea behind PRP injections is to harness this repairing, regenerative, clotting tool already found within your body and to strengthen it so that it can target an injured area.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections

Platelet rich plasma injections first start with a draw of blood.  This part is straightforward - a technician draws blood from the patient similar to any other blood draw. Most practioners and offices will then use a bedside machine to separate the plasma.  However, more advanced offices (such as ours), separate and concentrate the plasma by hand in a lab.  This will create a more pure platelet rich plasma injection and also allows a higher concentration of platelets.  For example, when the platelet rich plasma is concentrated by hand, many of the red blood cells can be removed.  This is important because these red blood cells will often irritate the tissue being injected.  You can see the difference in the picture at the top of this post.

The red tubes are PRP that was made using a bedside machine and the yellow tubes are a more pure, super concentrated PRP (SCP) made in our lab.

After the PRP is created, the area receiving the injection is numbed and a needle is used to transfer the platelet-rich plasma into the affected area. The platelets, once injected, break down and discharge growth elements to aid the nearby cells in the renewal and repair process, which triggers healing.

An ultrasound or x-ray should be used to get a better idea of the injured area and where injections should be made. Often, there will be a series of injections into different locations of the injured tissue.

PRP injections take approximately 30-60 minutes, depending on the injured area and the extent of the injury.

Treatment Options

What kind of injuries can receive PRP treatment? These injections are becoming more commonplace as their benefits are understood. Largely, this treatment is used for tendonitis, torn tendons, arthritis, and joint and muscle injuries.

Several specific injuries which are regularly treated with PRP are knee arthritis, Achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, and bursitis.

Another specific injury that is being regularly treated through PRP is tennis elbow, a type of overuse injury which causes tendonitis. So named for the sport that sees regular, high-impact use in one position, this injury occurs in the forearm and elbow when the muscles and tendons are strained following repetitive, strenuous use.

Platelet-rich plasma is a form of regenerative medicine used to treat injured or aging areas by harnessing the healing power of the platelet cell. By targeting the injured area with platelets, the body’s healing process is kickstarted. PRP is becoming increasingly used for a number of different treatments and as physicians continue to study its benefit, its usage will most certainly continue to grow and expand.

You Might Also Enjoy...

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem that can cause numbness, pain and tingling in the wrist and hand. In most patients CTS worsens over time, making early diagnosis and treatment important. Simple actions can be taken to alleviate ...

What is a Herniated Disc?

Herniated spinal disc A herniated disc is an injury that can occur anywhere along the spine but most commonly occurs in the lower back. Other names for this condition include a bulging, protruding or ruptured disc, and it is one of the most...

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a fairly common injury that can happen with tennis, racquet sports, or other repetitive arm motion. It is an inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the outside part of the elbow...

Subacromial Decompression Surgery

Subacromial decompression surgery – not the answer Today I’ll like to review a recent study that was published on a type of shoulder surgery called subacromial decompression. This surgery is done to treat a condition called shoulder impingement...

How can Regenexx treatments help with spinal pain?

At the Atlantic Regenerative Joint and Spine Center, we aim to improve your quality of life. We can help to alleviate pain and allow you to return to the activities you love. Our treatment options are diverse with a strong focus on stem cells and blood ...