In the past couple of years, the field of orthopedics has seen a number of revolutionary changes with one such landmark change being Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy. Even though PRP therapy was first introduced in the early 1950s, it is only recently that it has garnered huge success and is being used in multiple fields of medicine. Some common queries about its usage in orthopedic problems are answered here.

What is PRP Therapy? 

Our blood even though mainly liquid has several solid components inside it (red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma). Platelets are rich in growth factor (proteins that promote cell growth) that plays a crucial role in healing injuries which is also the reason why platelets are famous for their blood clotting capabilities.  The main aim of PRP therapy is to create plasma with a lot of platelets, way more than the quantity that is normally found in the blood, and then effectively treat injuries. The more the platelets- the higher the concentration of growth factor which eventually means the lesser the healing time. Mostly the blood used is 5-10 times richer in concentration than the normal blood.

How is PRP therapy performed?

The first and foremost step of PRP is drawing of the blood from the patient’s vein in the arm. Once the blood is drawn out the plasma is separated from other blood cells via the process of centrifugation which involves spinning the blood at high speed to separate all the components of it; giving us a high concentration of platelets. 

Isolation of PRP from the patient's blood

PRP injections are given almost immediately after centrifugation.PRP is injected into the injury area directly or with the help of an ultrasound machine for the precise location.  In the case of a joint problem like cartilage injury or early arthritis, it is directly injected into the affected joint. Mostly this procedure takes about an hour.

How does PRP work?

The main purpose of PRP is to boost the healing process in a safe environment with a non-intrusive method. Though it is not exactly clear how PRP works, laboratory studies have shown that the increased concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process. It stimulates the body to grow new, healthy cells and promote healing. Depending upon the kind of injury and treatment required the number of injections is decided. In predominant cases, only one injection is sufficient however, in some cases a number of injections are injected over a long period.

PRP is mostly used to heal the following:

  • Damaged cartilage
  • Torn ligaments
  • Pulled hamstring muscles
  • Tendon injuries
  • Fractured Bones

What problems can PRP deal with?

  • Osteoarthritis of the major joints (knee, shoulder, hip, and spine)
  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy, strains and tears
  • Tendonitis (eg. Tennis Elbow, epicondylitis, Heel Pain (Chronic Achilles tendonitis, Plantar fascitis)
  • Acute Sports injuries— Ligament and Muscle injuries
  • Knee Injury (Cartilage defect, Ligament tear, Meniscal tears)
  • Runners/Jumpers knee
  • Fractures, Nonunions - speed the healing of broken bones
  • Frozen shoulder
  • After surgical repair of tendons, cartilage, meniscus - to help tissues heal

What are the rules to follow before your therapy?

Before getting PRP therapy, there are some rules that you must adhere to for your safety. 

  • Talk to your doctor about all the medications you are undertaking and mention all the underlying health issues. 
  • Abstain from consuming any blood-thinning supplements like alcohol, herbs, and vitamins for at least 1 to 2 weeks prior. 
  • Start eating healthy and increase your water intake, especially a day before your treatment.
  • Discontinue any steroids or steroids injections that you may be taking at least one month before your treatment. 

What are the post-procedure rules you should follow?

Even though your doctor will discuss all the post-procedure rules with you in detail, some rules you should follow after a PRP therapy:

  • Eat healthily and increase your water intake to improve the healing process.
  • Do not take any pain-killers or other medicines unless recommended by your doctor.
  • Take rest for 2-3 days with using the injected area only for slight movements.
  • Avoid smoking. 

How much time will it take to heal?

As mentioned earlier, healing time can depend on many factors like your health, the type of injury, and the area injected. However, in most cases, it takes about a week or two for things to get normal.

If your injury isn’t severe, you might even be allowed to resume your everyday work after a couple of days, provided that you will not put a strain on the injected area. 

Are there any side-effects of PRP therapy?

PRP therapy is one of the safest ways to treat injuries as it is not a surgical procedure. There might be some minor side effects. Swelling and extreme pain after injection is two of the most common problems noted by the patients. Even though both these problems are temporary and gradually go away with time, you need to contact your doctor if the pain is overbearing.