What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, is a treatment option for chronic plantar fasciitis, knee tears and other non-healing tendon injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and tennis elbow.
PRP technology was developed 20 years ago for heart surgery to aid with wound healing and blood loss. Its benefits are now being applied toward the facilitation of healing tendon injuries. In fact, PRP has been used for years to treat tendon injuries in Europe.
How Does A PRP Procedure Work?
Using the patient’s own blood, specially-prepared platelets are taken and then re-injected into the tendon of an affected area. These platelets release substances known as “growth factors” that promote tissue healing. For example, when you cut yourself, the body’s natural response is to attract platelets that release growth factors and facilitate healing. By concentrating platelets, we increase the growth factors up to eight times, which promotes the healing of tendons.
While other tendon injury treatments, such as corticosteroid injections, may provide temporary relief and stop inflammation, platelet-rich plasma injections actually promote the healing of the tendon.
The human body has a remarkable ability to heal itself. By re-injecting concentrated platelets, we are facilitating the natural healing process.
What Are Tendons?
Tendons are the structures that attach muscle to bone. They often bear significant force, and as a result are vulnerable to injury. Tendons have a limited blood supply, which limits their ability to heal.
Current treatments for chronic tendon injuries are temporary in nature and do not provide long-term relief. In fact, cortisone injections have been shown to increase the risk of tendon rupture and are not recommended for repeated use. Anti-inflammatory medications are temporarily helpful, but have adverse side effects.
Is Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment Right for Me?
Patients should consider platelet-rich plasma treatment if they have been diagnosed with a tendon injury in which conservative treatment such as anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and bracing have not relieved symptoms.
For most patients, PRP offers a solid alternative treatment for those who do not wish to have surgery. An initial evaluation will determine if PRP is a viable treatment option for you.
What are the Potential Benefits of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment?
Patients can expect to see significant improvement in symptoms; elimination of the need for more traditional treatments such as medications, cortisone injections or surgery; and a dramatic return of function.
What are the Significant Side Effects?
Although uncommon, the risks include those signs/symptoms associated with an injection, including pain, infection, no relief of symptoms, worsening of symptoms, blood clot, nerve injury, skin discoloration, calcification, scarring, loss of fat to the affected area and allergic reaction. After the injection, if you experience any of the above side effects, please contact your doctor.
How Soon Can I Go Back To Regular Physical Activity?
This treatment is not a “quick fix” and is designed to promote long-term healing of the tendon. The process of platelet-rich plasma therapy requires time and rehabilitation to allow the injured tendon to heal. Prior studies on tennis elbow have demonstrated at six months an 81% improvement in pain scores and, at follow up at 1 to 3 years, a 93% reduction in pain.