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PRP: Treating Pain and Injuries with Platelet Rich Plasma Injections
PRP, or platelet rich plasma, treats soft tissue injuries with your own blood. It’s a unique and cutting-edge therapy that uses your own body’s blood to regenerate and heal itself at the source of the injury.
What is PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)?
The procedure follows the philosophy that your body is already a regenerating machine that’s constantly healing and mending itself. A PRP injection encourages the body’s natural healing capacity to treat soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis and ligament injuries, as well as joint-related problem such as arthritis.
The doctor draws your blood and places it in a centrifuge, which separates the platelets in a suspension of blood plasma. The process concentrates the platelets up to eight times higher than normal. The platelets in blood are what drives tissue repair. The isolated platelets are then injected into the injury site, which then speeds up the healing process. The result? A reduction in pain and increase in improved function within a couple of weeks. Even some patients will notice improvement within the first week.
Who is a good candidate for platelet rich plasma?
PRP works best on those with mild to medium injury, who are younger than 75 and tend to be healthier. Those who are over 75 and sustained a great deal of damage and injury tend not to respond as well to the procedure. For example, a younger person with mild arthritis will do better with PRP than someone 75-85 with advanced arthritis. However, for those types of patients, there are other options to help ease and manage their pain.
Preparing for the Procedure
Consult with your physician or healthcare practitioner prior to your PRP procedure for specific instructions. You should be rested and well-hydrated. In most cases it will not be necessary to have someone accompany you on the day of treatment and you should be able to return to work.
You will be requested to discontinue taking blood thinners, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as aspirin, up to 5 days prior to the procedure and for at least 1-2 weeks following. These medications will counteract the effects of PRP.
During the procedure
Your physician will use an antiseptic to clean the site of the injection. Your skin and muscle tissue will then be numbed with local anesthetic. Image guidance, with either dynamic ultrasound or fluoroscopy, may be used to visualize the injured area and assist in precisely placing the injected material into the desired location. It is common to experience mild discomfort during this part of the procedure. The entire process usually takes about one hour.
Following the injection, and after the anesthetic wears off , you may experience worsening of pain for several days, as the introduction of PRP will stimulate an inflammatory reaction at the site of the injection. This is a desired effect and it is important to avoid ice and anti-inflammatory medication for up to one week. Your physician may recommend acetaminophen or analgesics to manage your discomfort. Adverse effects are uncommon with this procedure. Because PRP is composed of your own blood, there is a minimal risk of disease transmission and allergic reactions.
Post-injection rehabilitation will depend on the nature and extent of the injury. Your physician may suggest that you use a walking boot, knee brace and/or crutches for the lower extremity or a sling for the upper extremity to immobilize the treated area. Stretching, light resistance exercises and physical therapy may also be prescribed. It is important to consult with your physician prior to resuming normal activity or exercise.
PRP injections are often repeated. While symptoms may improve after a single injection, it is not uncommon for patients to receive a series of up to three to five injections over several months to maximize the benefit of therapy.
If you’re experiencing soft tissue pain, call Point Performance in Bethesda if PRP is a possibility for treatment. Learn more about what occurs during a PRP treatment and what you should expect.
By Mark Klaiman, MD, Point Performance Medicine
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