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Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
An emerging tool to regenerate joints and reduce pain
WHAT IT IS
Platelet-rich plasma, as the name suggests, is plasma that has been processed to concentrate the number of platelets per cc (cubic centimeter). Platelets are blood-cells well-known for their clotting abilities, but they also contain growth factors that can trigger cell reproduction and stimulate tissue regeneration or healing in the treated area. Creating PRP is as simple as taking a blood sample from a patient and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out components of the blood.
Because PRP is the patient’s own blood, there is little chance of a large-scale immune response (aka tissue rejection). This makes it a low-risk procedure, especially compared to joint-replacement surgery. Additionally, because of the high acceptance rate of the PRP material, doctors can frequently combine procedures together to multiple the impact. At CIH, we frequently recommend PRP + Prolozone together to maximize regenerative signals to the affected area.
WHAT IT DOES
After creating platelet-rich plasma from a patient’s blood sample, that solution is injected into the target area, such as an injured knee or a tendon. At Case Integrative Health, Dr. Deepti Agarwal, Director of Integrative and Interventional Pain Management, completes these injections using ultrasound guidance.
The idea is to increase the concentration of specific bioproteins or hormones, called growth factors, in a target area to accelerate the healing process.
The mechanism behind PRP injections is not completely understood. Studies show that the increased concentration of growth factors in platelet-rich plasma may stimulate or speed up the healing process, shortening healing time for injuries, decreasing pain and even encouraging hair growth.
WHAT IT'S USED FOR
PRP injections are used for a range of conditions from musculoskeletal pain and injuries to cosmetic procedures.
- Chronic tendon injuries such as tennis elbow or jumper’s knee can often take a long time to heal, so adding PRP shots to a treatment regimen can help to stimulate the healing process, decrease pain and enable a return to activities sooner.
- Post-surgical PRP injections are used to help heal muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Osteoarthritis pain and stiffness by may relieved by PRP injections by modulating the joint environment and reducing inflammation (research is growing).
- Hair loss can be slowed and hair restoration improved with PRP, as well as the Platelet Poor Plasma (PPP) byproduct from blood.
NOTE: 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.
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