The human body has the ability to heal itself. When we cut our skin, for example, blood vessels constrict to stop the bleeding and then release growth factors that signal the body to start repairing the damage. Platelets are cells in our blood that contain these growth factors.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a concentration of these platelets and growth factors. When applied to an injured area, platelet-rich plasma injections can potentially speed the healing process naturally undergone by your body. This is called platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP therapy), and now, it's more accessible than ever to everyday patients like you.
At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA), our team is proud to offer our patients cutting-edge treatments like PRP injections. Platelet-rich plasma is one of the least-invasive, low-risk options available today for treating musculoskeletal injuries, and PRP treatments can even help accelerate recovery following a surgical procedure. With our commitment to minimally-invasive care, PRP treatments are a perfect fit for our practice.
Here are a few of the most important things every patient should know about PRP injections:
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
When your body becomes injured, it begins the healing process by sending platelets and white blood cells to the injury site. These cells release growth factors that help repair tissue damage.
But what are these elements of your blood that help you heal?
- Plasma: The liquid portion of your blood that contains water, electrolytes, nutrients, and proteins like enzymes and antibodies.
- Red blood cells: The cells in your blood that carry oxygen to your tissues.
- White blood cells: The cells in your blood that fight infection.
- Platelets: The cells in your blood that help with clotting and also contain growth factors.
- Growth factors: Proteins that play an important role in the healing process by signaling the body to repair tissue damage.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a concentration of these platelets and growth factors that has been created from a sample of your own (autologous) blood.
How Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Work?
PRP works by using the body’s own healing process to speed up recovery. First, a blood sample is taken from the patient. This sample is then placed in a centrifuge where it is spun at a high speed to separate the platelets and growth factors from the other blood cells. Once the PRP has been isolated for an increased concentration of platelets, it is injected directly into the area affected by tissue damage.
Inside your body, the PRP immediately targets the injury site and begins releasing growth factors. These growth factors then signal your body’s cells to begin repairing the tissue damage. In addition, the platelets in PRP help your body with its natural clotting process, which can further speed your recovery.
What Happens During a PRP Treatment?
Here's how a PRP injection procedure typically works at GPOA:
- First, one of our providers will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. We will also take some X-rays or order other imaging tests to get a better look at the area that is being treated.
- Next, your provider will use a local anesthetic to numb the injection site. Then, a small blood sample will be drawn.
- This sample of autologous blood (your own blood) will then be placed in a centrifuge which spins at a high speed to separate the platelets and growth factors from the other blood cells.
- Once the PRP has been isolated, it is injected directly into the area affected by tissue damage using a very thin needle.
After the injection, you will be able to go home and rest. Most patients who receive platelet-rich plasma injections see results within four to six weeks, and the effects of PRP can last for up to a year.
Who Can Benefit From Platelet-Rich Plasma?
In the past, professional athletes were the primary group of people with access to cutting-edge treatments like PRP. But now, thanks to advancements in medicine, anyone who suffers from a musculoskeletal injury can receive PRP injections.
Orthopedic surgeons typically recommend PRP to candidates for whom they believe the therapy will be most effective. This includes patients who have sustained sports injuries, younger patients, and patients who have not responded well to traditional treatments like corticosteroid injections or physical therapy.
What Are the Benefits of PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma has many benefits over traditional treatments. PRP is:
- Natural: Since the therapy uses the patient’s own blood, there is no risk of rejection or allergic reaction.
- Minimally-invasive: The injection itself is quick and easy with little to no downtime.
- Effective: Platelet-rich plasma has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of injuries and conditions.
PRP can assist with tissue repair, improve function following surgery, and speed healing by accelerating your body's natural healing process.
What Health Conditions Can PRP Help Treat?
PRP injections aren't a cure-all, but they may be able to help patients recover from a wide variety of musculoskeletal injuries.
Some of the most common conditions we address using PRP include:
- Chronic tendon injuries: Common chronic tendon injuries that can be helped by PRP include tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis), and Achilles tendonitis.
- Rotator cuff tears: The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Muscle injuries in these tendons are a common cause of shoulder pain.
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the cartilage in your joints breaks down. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- Bursitis: Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursa) that cushion the bones, muscles, and tendons in your joints.
- Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. It is a common cause of heel pain.
- ACL tears: Some of the most common soft-tissue injuries among athletes, ACL tears can cause long-term pain and disability.
PRP injections may also help patients recover from surgery by reducing inflammation and promoting tissue repair.
Visit the Top Orthopedic Specialists in Pittsburgh
PRP is a cutting-edge treatment for a wide variety of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. If you think you might be a candidate for PRP therapy, the first step is to consult with an experienced orthopedic surgeon.
At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates, our board-certified surgeons have years of experience helping patients recover from injuries and manage chronic conditions. Our team is highly skilled in applying PRP effectively to all sorts of injuries, from chronic tendonitis to ACL tears.
If you’re looking for the best orthopedic care Pittsburgh has to offer, look no further than Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates. Schedule your first appointment and get started with us today.