What Is PRP?
Plasma is a part of your blood that contains unique "factors," or proteins, that help your blood to clot. It also contains proteins that support cell growth. Researchers have created PRP by isolating plasma from blood and concentrating it.
The concept is that injecting PRP into damaged tissues will trigger your body to grow new, healthy cells and promote healing. Since the tissue growth factors are more concentrated in the prepared growth injections, researchers think the body's tissues might heal quicker.
What are the purposes of PRP injections?
Researchers are trying out PRP injections across a number of applications. Examples of these include:
- Hair loss– Physicians have injected PRP into the scalp to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss. According to research from 2014, PRP injections work in treating androgenic alopecia, also referred to as male pattern baldness.
- Tendon injuries– Tendons are tough, thick bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone. They are typically slow to heal after injury. Doctors have used PRP injections to treat chronic tendon problems, such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis at the ankle, and jumper's knee, which causes pain in the patellar tendon in the knee.
- Acute injuries– Physicians have used PRP injections to treat acute sports injuries, such as pulled hamstring muscles or knee sprains.
- Postsurgical repair– In some cases physicians use PRP injections after surgery to repair a torn tendon (such as a rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder) or ligaments (such as the anterior cruciate ligament).
- Osteoarthritis– PRP injections in the knee might help people with osteoarthritis. A 2015 study discovered that PRP injections were more successful than hyaluronic acid injections (a conventional therapy) for treating osteoarthritis. However, the trial was a small group of 160 people, so larger trials are needed for this to be definitive.
How do you prepare for PRP injections?
There are few steps to preparing for PRP injections. These steps depend on how you get PRP.
PRP can be injected in different ways. For instance, occasionally a topical numbing lidocaine solution is applied to your scalp prior to injection. You may have to arrive early to a therapy session if this is the case.
Other times, a local anesthetic is mixed with the PRP to minimize any discomfort. Sometimes, Dr. Williamson will inject or apply PRP during surgery. In this case, preparation for PRP injections would involve following your surgeon's recommendations before surgery.
You'll likely have to quit taking particular medications that thin your blood, like aspirin and ibuprofen, before you receive PRP injections. You may also need to take a break from particular vitamins or supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Williamson can tell you precisely what you need to do to prepare for these shots.
PRP doesn't normally cause significant side effects. But because it involves drawing blood, if Dr. Williamson recommends it - you'll want to be sure you eat prior to the procedure. That will help you avoid feeling lightheaded when you receive PRP injections.
You can't receive PRP injections if you have:
- Abnormal platelet function or a low platelet count
- An infection
- PRP injection process
Here's what to anticipate from a regular PRP injection process:
- A healthcare professional will draw a sample of your blood. The amount of the sample depends on where the PRP will be injected. For example, the amount of blood taken for injection into the scalp for one study was 20 milliliters. This is slightly larger than one teaspoon.
- The blood is placed into a centrifuge. This machine spins around very fast, causing the blood components to separate. The separation process takes around 15 minutes.
- A technologist takes the separated plasma and prepares it for injection into the affected area.
- Physicians will often utilize imaging, such as ultrasound, to identify particular areas for injection, such as the tendon. Dr. Williamson will then inject the PRP into the affected area.
What are the potential side effects of PRP?
Since PRP involves injecting a substance into the skin, there are potential side effects.
PRP is autologous, which means it includes substances that come straight from your own body. This minimizes the risks for an allergic reaction that can happen from injecting other medications, such as cortisone or hyaluronic acid. Nevertheless, there are risks from the injection itself, including:
- Nerve injuries
- Pain at the injection site
- Tissue damage
You should go over these potential risks with Dr. Williamson, as well as the steps they will take to minimize these risks.
What is the recovery time for PRP injections?
When PRP is injected after an injury, Dr. Williamson may recommend that you rest the affected area. However, these suggestions are more related to the injury and less to the PRP injections. The majority of people can continue their everyday activities following PRP injections.
Since PRP injections are intended to promote healing or growth, you might not notice an immediate difference after receiving the injections. However, in a few weeks or months, the area may begin healing quicker or growing more hair than you would have expected if you had not received PRP injections.