Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has gained attention in recent years as physicians in different areas of medicine explore its uses and benefits. While new reports have focused on its use in anti-aging and cosmetic treatments, PRP has been used successfully for many years in orthopedics treatments.
Even though PRP treatment is common today, many people don’t know what PRP is — or where it comes from. As a top-rated orthopedic specialist in the Houston, Texas, area, Joshua Harris, MD, uses PRP for a range of orthopedic treatments. This post provides a brief overview of PRP treatment and how it’s used.
The science behind PRP
The name “platelet-rich plasma” gives a hint at where PRP comes from. Both platelets and plasma are blood components. Platelets play a major role in healing, while plasma is the liquid part of blood.
PRP is a blood-derived “product”-- and it comes from your blood. That means it’s completely compatible with your own body, so there are no risks of rejection or allergic reaction. There is nothing artificial, nothing grown in a lab, nothing synthetic. As the name implies, PRP contains a higher-than-normal concentration of platelets contained in a liquid plasma “base.”
In the first part of your PRP treatment, we’ll take a sample of your blood — typically one or two tubes — then process it using a device called a centrifuge to separate and concentrate the platelets. The platelet concentration is re-combined with the liquid plasma part of your blood to make PRP.
PRP contains more platelets than “normal” blood. That means when it’s injected into a site of injury, those platelets go to work promoting an array of natural healing responses. The white blood cell component of blood is removed during the centrifuge process. This is important for understanding the mechanism of how PRP works. The white blood cells are components of inflammation. Thus, their removal is important to permit PRP to work as an anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown PRP may have up to 10-100X the anti-inflammatory effect of that of cortisone, a common steroid used in other injection treatments.
PRP injections can be used on their own or in combination with other treatments to enhance their effects. Sometimes, PRP is used during or right after surgery to jump-start the healing process at the surgical site.
PRP treatments and uses
Platelets contain special components called growth factors. While PRP can be used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries, it’s especially effective in treating tendon, muscle, and cartilage injuries, including:
- Tennis elbow (also known as “lateral epicondylitis”)
- Golfer’s elbow (also known as “medial epicondylitis”)
- Hamstring strains, hamstring tendonitis
- Gluteal tendonitis
- Quadriceps and patellar tendonitis
- Arthritis pain
PRP is widely used to treat injuries in athletes, and because it’s so well tolerated (coming from your own blood), it can be a good choice for most patients. It might not be the best option if:
- Have a bleeding or clotting disorder
- You take anticoagulants or blood thinners
- You have a low platelet count (also known as “thrombocytopenia”)
- You’re taking anti-inflammatory medications
- You have an active infection
- You’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Before recommending PRP as part of your treatment, Dr. Harris performs a comprehensive exam and a review of your medical history to ensure it’s a good “fit” for your needs.
Learn more about PRP
PRP offers many benefits for patients with many types of musculoskeletal injuries, but it’s not always the best option. To learn more about PRP and other treatments that can help you get back to the activities you love, call Dr. Harris or book an appointment online today.