Recent athletic, media and clinical hype around Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) has furthered the information available about PRP and increased the treatment’s acceptance as a legitimate and viable therapy for certain tendon, ligament and joint injuries. 2011 has already led to breakthrough PRP findings with Allan Mishra M.D. pioneering a study suggesting that RevaTen PRP may be effective in cardiovascular tissue for myocardial infarction. More information on this subject and others is promised as more findings are unveiled throughout the year. With that in mind, this article will provide basic considerations for patients interested in whether PRP may help their injuries and conditions.
1. What injuries have achieved successful outcomes in clinical studies when PRP has been applied? Currently, information exists suggesting PRP is the answer for a very wide range of injuries and conditions. While encouraging information has been published from highly reputable sources about the benefits of PRP, it is crucial to know what the specific applications were. For instance, based on current research, a full rotator cuff tear isn’t likely to heal solely from a series of PRP injections, but certain moderate to chronic tendinopathies, which have failed conventional treatment methods, are more likely to achieve positive outcomes. This is also important to know because insurance may not cover PRP. Patients should be aware where the treatment has indicated successful outcomes so money is not spent unnecessarily. Study outcomes and commentary can be found under the “category” heading in the right column of this blog and at our Huntsville PRP website.
2. Procedural Time is important to consider. While the treatment is simple and straightforward, it is important to know what PRP entails. Before PRP can be injected into an injury, it must be first derived from the patient. A standard blood draw is initially required to create the platelet concentration containing healing growth factors. Once the PRP has been created by separating blood platelets and then concentrating them, PRP will be ready for injection. The entire process can take up to an hour.
3. PRP is shot directly into an injury site. A cortisone injection may be shot in between joints to alleviate pain temporarily. PRP has been shown to be a more effective treatment than cortisone in chronic lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), as it works to increase tendon function, reducing long term pain. The PRP shot goes directly into the injury site which can be painful.
4. A series of injections may be required. While a single injection may reduce pain and improve function, it is possible more than one injection is required to achieve complete healing. If patient and doctor agree multiple PRP treatments are needed, injections would likely take place about six weeks apart after follow-up exams.
5. PRP is becoming increasingly accepted among sports organizations. Previously, PRP has been incorrectly categorized as a performance-enhancing drug. The world anti-doping agency has taken PRP off the list of prohibited substances due to a “lack of current evidence concerning the use of these methods for purposes of performance enhancement,” according to its website. PRP is widely used for professional athletes hoping to return to competition quickly and avoid the recovery time of surgery. While certain athletes have attributed their recoveries to PRP, these athletes are likely using a variety of conventional and non-conventional therapies simultaneously with PRP. It is therefore important to find an experienced orthopaedic surgeon to discuss a variety of treatment options.