Three Reasons to Consider Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a regenerative medicine procedure that aims to harness the innate ability of the body to heal itself in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Human blood is comprised of both liquid and, surprisingly, solid elements: the solids–which include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets–are suspended in a liquid called plasma, which allows them to move freely throughout the bloodstream. While most everyone knows the roles red and white blood cells play in the body, platelets tend to be less understood by the general public. Platelets primary physiological purpose is to facilitate the clotting of blood, but recent advances in regenerative medicine have grown their role well beyond that, and they are now widely recognized for the crucial role they play in the healing process. Platelets contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors, which are a vital part of the recovery process as they help reduce pain, control inflammation, and promote healing.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) technically describes the end product of a patient’s own blood after it has been extracted and refined through a mechanical–not chemical–process to contain far higher concentrations of platelets than would normally be present. This preparation, now rich in healing growth factors, is then injected into the site of injury, allowing the platelets to go to work promoting recovery in the affected anatomy. Platelet-rich plasma injections are sourced from a patient’s own blood, so the body is not introduced to foreign substances or chemicals during the procedure; it is quite simply a preparation of the patient’s own blood that has been manipulated, without additives, to contain high levels of the body’s naturally occurring healing cells.
Why Does PRP Work?
The precise biological mechanisms that allow a PRP injection to work are still not fully understood, despite the best efforts of researchers and clinicians. However, the general consensus is that delivering an increased concentration of platelet-based growth factors to the site of injury helps reduce pain and inflammation and expedite the natural healing process. Animal studies have shown that PRP treatments can generate rapid collagen and blood vessel growth in surgically-created soft tissue lesions, but it should be noted that these findings cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. However, they unquestionably lend credence to the idea that concentrations of platelet-rich blood have the potential to promote healing in damaged soft tissues. Numerous studies are currently underway around the world seeking to better understand the impact PRP injections have on healing and recovery, and the best ways to incorporate the procedure into clinical practice.
If you are suffering from pain and physical limitation as the result of a soft tissue injury or condition, PRP injections could be right for you. PRP injections are efficacious, safe, and can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions.
- PRP Works
While the biological pathways through which PRP injections promote healing are still being investigated, we do know one thing: they work! Numerous studies have been published highlighting the ability of PRP injections to reduce pain and improve function in patients suffering from a wide-variety of conditions. PRP is not a miracle cure and won’t work for everyone without fail, but the procedure has been shown to be very effective in treating patients who are in pain. It is still much too soon to draw sweeping conclusions about the procedure, but anecdotal evidence, particularly that emerging from the treatment of high-level athletes, indicates that the use of PRP injections is very effective in promoting healing and decreasing recovery time.
- PRP is Safe
While there is a certain level of risk involved with any medical procedure, PRP is very safe when compared to traditional surgical treatments; generally speaking, the procedure is no riskier than receiving a steroid injection and has many of the same side effects. Because there are no incisions required for the procedure, the risk of infection is very low and recovery time is virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, there are no additives or chemicals involved in the preparation of a PRP injection, so there are no foreign substances being introduced to the body during the procedure. These factors all combine to make PRP a safe procedure for treating musculoskeletal pain.
- PRP Can Be Used to Treat a Variety of Conditions
As stated above, there is a wide body of research currently being conducted to better understand how PRP works and what injuries it can be best used to treat. Our general understanding is that PRP can play a vital role in recovering from acute or chronic tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries; arthritis, particularly arthritis of the knee and shoulder; and, to a very limited degree, fractures. Anyone who is suffering from a musculoskeletal soft tissue injury could be a candidate for PRP injections. Whether your injury is chronic or acute, Dr. Hackel could recommend one or a series of PRP injections to promote healing and shorten your recovery time. Even if your injury requires surgical intervention, there are PRP techniques being used today that allow physicians to “stitch” PRP into surgically repaired tissue. The only way to know for sure whether or not PRP could help you is to consult with your physician, as there are numerous factors that could affect your eligibility for the procedure.
Dr. Hackel was one of the first physicians in the region to utilize PRP successfully for orthopaedic injuries and conditions. He has been and continues to be a driving force in the research surrounding the use of platelet-rich plasma therapy as a treatment option for various orthopaedic injuries. Additionally, he uses ultrasound imaging to guide the injection to a precise location in the anatomy.