Platelet rich plasma, or PRP therapy is an innovative treatment option for injuries that has gained popularity after its positive outcomes were seen in many famous athletes like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. However, the benefits of this treatment are still not fully understood by the general population. Therefore, as a practicing Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, I have decided to create a short blog entry to help clarify the significance of PRP and the potential benefits it can have for an individual.
What is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy?
Our blood contains many components including platelets, which contain growth factors that encourage the natural healing process of the body. PRP treatment involves harvesting and injecting blood that is abundant with platelets, to help stimulate the body to heal injured tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints. By utilizing this treatment reparative cell counts in the body may increase, which may potentially replace the need for surgery.
How is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) done?
PRP therapy can be explained in three simple steps:
- Blood is drawn from the patient using a small needle and placed into a special canister, which is then placed into a specialized centrifuge.
- The blood sample is spun at a high rate in the centrifuge machine to separate the whole blood into layers, isolating the portion rich in platelets.
- The PRP layer rich in platelets is then carefully extracted and injected under sterile conditions into the targeted area.
What is the recovery time for Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy?
The majority of my patients are able to return to normal activities within a few days, however, patients are advised to avoid high impact activities for approximately two weeks following the procedure. Improvements are normally seen within 1- 3 weeks after treatment, with pain relief extending over a period of 3-6 months. Patients are also often prescribed physical therapy and rehabilitation programs customized to their needs in conjunction with their PRP therapy for optimal results.
Who is a candidate for Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy?
Many factors go into determining whether a patient is a candidate for PRP treatment. Every potential candidate undergoes a consultation. Previous treatments, clinical examinations, and radiological images are reviewed and discussed in detail. This makes each patient case unique and requiring a detailed assessment.
PRP injections have been commonly known to help patients who suffer chronic tendonitis, tendinosis, and arthritis. PRP therapy may also be used to improve abnormalities in tendons, such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, rotator cuff tears, and injuries of the achilles. More recently PRP injections have also been utilized in patients experiencing disc disorders of the lumbar spine.
What is the cost of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)?
Insurance companies will usually pay for the office visit and the procedure fee. With PRP being a relatively new innovation in the medical world, some insurance companies do not deem it medically necessary leaving the patient with an expense (varies per treatment). Our practice, Precision Spine & Orthopedics, is always willing to work with individuals who are candidates for PRP therapy, but may not be qualified through their insurance companies to control the cost of the treatment. It is also important to note that not all PRP kits, practitioners, or injured areas are the same.
It is also important that PRP injections be performed by a specialist with proper training and an advanced understanding of the musculoskeletal system to ensure safest results.
Is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) supported by scientific literature?
Overall, PRP therapy can be an effective surgical alternative for patients who qualify for the treatment, although as a new intervention, additional research of the benefits of PRP therapy is necessary. A systematic review of previously performed PRP trials has shown beneficial outcomes in treating a growing number of orthopedic conditions, such as the patellar tendon, lateral elbow tendinopathy, and knee osteoarthritis.
In my own practice, I am privileged to be able to care for and treat patients ranging from high functioning professional athletes to the geriatric population. The results I see from my patients who have successfully undergone PRP therapy are largely positive as most patients are able to return back to their daily lifestyles in a significantly shorter amount of time when compared to surgical interventions.
What is your overall opinion on Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy?
PRP therapy has the potential to be a big step forward in aiding patients in their recovery. Although discussions still exists around the effectiveness of PRP therapy, the majority of the literature suggests that PRP is a safe, conservative treatment option that has actual potential in treating patients. My confidence and advocacy for PRP therapy comes from my own personal experience. PRP helped treat my long standing patellar tendonitis and partial distal biceps tear after attempting multiple failed conservative treatments. As a surgeon I can successfully say that through PRP therapy I was able to avoid surgery and return to my high impact activities.