Platelets are cells in our blood that release growth factors and healing factors that may help in the healing process of the body’s injuries, including arthritis. PRP is a concentration of these platelet cells taken from your blood. The platelet rich plasma is then injected into the areas of an injury to stimulate and optimize your body’s ability to heal. PRP injections are not new, they were first used in 1987 in open heart surgery.
They are used in many fields including cosmetics, dentistry, urology, orthopaedics and sports medicine. PRP injections can be used in the treatment of torn tendons, muscles and ligaments to help heal the wounded tissue. These injuries can be difficult to heal because of poor blood supply to the region, as a result of microscopic tearing of the tendon and scar tissue. Similarly, arthritis is “injury” and damage to the cartilage of a joint, therefore PRP can be used in this setting too.
Ten mls of blood is taken, just like a normal blood test. It is then placed in a centrifuge machine, which spins the blood and separates it into its various components based on weight. The top layer is mostly plasma and platelets – this is the PRP. The top layer of this taken out using a syringe (the rest is discarded), and the PRP is injected directly into the injured area. The whole process takes approximately 20 minutes.
Some people complain about an ache or soreness in the area of the injection. Sometimes this pain is even felt deep inside the area, whether in the muscle or the bone. Since it is just one’s own blood and contains no chemicals and/or medications, reactions are rare.
In the last ten years there have been many studies with good clinical results and patient outcomes. Research is ongoing but the available evidence shows that PRP is a safe and successful non-surgical alternative.
One to three treatments, 2-6 weeks apart, depending on the degree of injury and how long the injury has been there. When used in the setting of arthritis, PRP booster injections will need to continue every 6-12 months to maintain the effect.