Happy Pride!The human body has the ability to heal itself. When we cut our skin, for example, blood vessels constrict to stop the bleeding and release growth factors that signal the body to repair 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 speed up your body's natural healing process. This is called platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP therapy); 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. Our commitment to minimally invasive care makes PRP treatments 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 wound-healing 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: A type of blood cell that helps with clotting and also contains growth factors.
  • Growth factors: Proteins that play an important role in the healing process by signaling the body to repair tissue damage.

Autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a concentration of these platelets and growth factors 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 PRP's effects can last 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.

Here's a breakdown of who can potentially benefit from PRP:

Athletes and Sports Injuries

  • PRP is commonly recommended for athletes with sports-related injuries, such as ligament sprains or tendon tears.
  • It can aid in accelerating the healing process and reducing recovery time.

Non-Athletic Individuals with Musculoskeletal Injuries

  • PRP can benefit non-athletes with musculoskeletal injuries, including ligament or tendon damage in various body parts. This includes individuals with chronic joint pain, osteoarthritis, or tendinitis.

Younger Patients

  • PRP may be particularly effective for younger patients due to their potentially higher regenerative capacity.
  • The therapy can help stimulate tissue repair and improve healing outcomes in this demographic.

Individuals Unresponsive to Traditional Treatments

  • Patients who have not experienced significant improvement with traditional treatments like corticosteroid injections or physical therapy may find PRP beneficial.
  • PRP offers an alternative option for those seeking additional relief and improved healing.

Who Should Avoid PRP Injections?

However, PRP may not be suitable for everyone. It’s generally not recommended for:

  • Patients with blood disorders or hematologic diseases.
  • Individuals taking anticoagulant medications (blood thinners).
  • Patients with active infections or cancer.
  • Those with certain chronic medical conditions.

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 is quick and easy with little to no downtime.
  • Effective: Platelet-rich plasma is an effective treatment for various 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 can help patients recover from various musculoskeletal injuries.

Some of the most common conditions we address using PRP include:

  • Chronic tendon injuries: Common chronic tendon injuries that PRP can help include tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), golfer 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 help patients recover from surgery by reducing inflammation and promoting tissue repair.

What Are The Side Effects Of PRP?

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is largely considered safe due to its autologous nature, which means it uses a patient's own platelets. However, as with any procedure involving injections, there are potential side effects, including:

  • Infection: There's a risk of infection anytime the skin is broken, although it's minimized by using sterile techniques.
  • Nerve injuries: There's a slight chance of damaging nerves in the area where the injection is administered. This risk is minimized when an experienced healthcare professional performs the procedure.
  • Pain at the injection site: Some people experience pain or discomfort at the site of the injection, but this usually subsides within a few days.
  • Tissue damage: In rare cases, tissue damage can occur at the injection site.
  • Allergic reaction: Although rare, as the injected substance is derived from the patient's own blood, allergic reactions can still occur in very rare cases.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to see results from PRP therapy?

PRP therapy results typically show after several weeks for joint injections and around six months for scalp injections. These results are temporary, and additional treatments may be necessary as the doctor advises.

Can PRP therapy be used in conjunction with other treatments?

Yes, PRP therapy can often be utilized alongside other treatment modalities such as physical therapy, medications, or even surgical interventions. The combination of treatments depends on the patient’s unique condition and the treating physician's recommendation.

Are there any lifestyle or dietary recommendations to follow during PRP therapy?

A healthy lifestyle can enhance the outcomes of PRP therapy. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in moderate exercise, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.

What activities should I avoid after a platelet-rich plasma injection?

Refraining from strenuous activities and heavy lifting for a specified period is advised. Do not smoke or consume alcohol for at least three days post-procedure. The exact duration and nature of these restrictions can vary and will be individually tailored by the healthcare provider based on the patient's condition and overall health status.