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Sports Medicine | Aug 9, 2018

You may have heard of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from news stories about athletes who have received this kind of treatment, including golf great Tiger Woods. PRP can be beneficial for various problems, such as sprained knees and chronic tendon injuries, speeding healing and relieving pain.

PRP is created from the patient’s own blood. Blood is made up of a liquid called plasma, in which red cells, white cells, and platelets are suspended. Platelets aid in blood clotting and also contain proteins called growth factors which allow injuries to heal through regeneration of damaged tissue.

PRP is concentrated plasma: blood that has been drawn and centrifuged to filter it and increase the percentage of platelets compared to the volume of plasma. The concentration of platelets – which also increases growth factors – can be up to 10 times richer than blood.

This is a simple inpatient procedure that can be accomplished in a single office visit.  Once prepared, the platelet-rich plasma is simply injected into the injured area. The plasma is 100% natural and biocompatible, since it is simply the patient’s own blood that has been filtered and concentrated.

PRP is often used to help alleviate pain for patients suffering from Achilles tendonitis, which is a condition commonly seen in runners and tennis players. PRP can also be used after surgical procedures to speed healing.

In some cases, pain may persist for a week or two as the injection site absorbs the plasma and disperses it throughout the injured area, but patients usually feel at least partial relief within a few days of injection.

Research studies are currently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of PRP treatment for different kinds of injuries. PRP is not a replacement for other medical care, but a welcome addition to it, supporting physical therapy as well as surgical procedures by enhancing the body’s ability to heal.

Factors that can affect the effectiveness of PRP treatment include:

  • What part of the body is being treated
  • The patient’s overall health
  • Whether the patient is suffering from an injury developed over time (chronic) or a specific injury suffered recently (acute)

According to the research studies completed thus far, PRP is most effective in the treatment of common, chronic tendon injuries, such as tennis elbow or jumper’s knee.  More research is being done to ascertain how effective PRP is when used as part of the treatment plan for patients undergoing knee or shoulder surgeries, to shorten healing time and ease discomfort.

If you think you could benefit from PRP injections for pain, or are anticipating any form of joint surgery, ask Dr. Strasburger if you are a good candidate for platelet-rich plasma treatment.