What Is PRP?
Plasma is a part of your blood that contains unique "factors," or proteins, that help your blood to clot. It also includes proteins that support cell growth. Researchers have produced PRP by separating plasma from blood and concentrating it.
The concept is that injecting PRP into damaged tissues will stimulate your body to grow new, healthy cells and promote healing. Because the tissue growth factors are more concentrated in the prepared growth injections, scientists believe the body's tissues may heal quicker.
What are the purposes of PRP injections?
Scientists are trying out PRP injections across a variety 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 are effective 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 issues, such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis at the ankle, and jumper's knee, which creates 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 doctors use PRP injections after surgery to fix 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 may help people with osteoarthritis. A 2015 study discovered that PRP injections were more effective than hyaluronic acid injections (a conventional treatment) for treating osteoarthritis. However, the trial was a small group of 160 people, so larger trials are required for this to be conclusive.
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 example, sometimes a topical numbing lidocaine solution is applied to your scalp before injection. You might need to arrive early to a treatment session if this is the case.
Other times, a local anesthetic is mixed with the PRP to reduce any discomfort. Sometimes, Dr. Williamson will inject or apply PRP during surgery. In this instance, preparation for PRP injections would include following your doctor's recommendations prior to surgery.
You'll likely have to quit taking certain medications that thin your blood, like aspirin and ibuprofen, before you receive PRP injections. You might also need to take a break from particular vitamins or supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Williamson can inform you precisely what you have to do to prepare for these shots.
PRP doesn't normally cause significant side effects. But because it includes 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 get PRP injections.
You can not receive PRP injections if you have:
- Abnormal platelet function or a low platelet count
- An infection
- PRP injection procedure
Here's what to anticipate from a typical 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 instance, the amount of blood taken for injection into the scalp for one study was 20 milliliters. This is a little larger than one teaspoon.
- The blood is placed into a centrifuge. This device spins around very quickly, 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.
- Doctors will often use imaging, such as ultrasound, to pinpoint 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?
Because 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. However, there are risks from the injection itself, including:
- nerve injuries
- pain at the injection site
- tissue damage
You should discuss these potential risks with Dr. Williamson, along with 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. Most people can continue their day-to-day activities after PRP injections.
Since PRP injections are meant to promote healing or growth, you may not observe an immediate difference after getting the injections. However, in several weeks or months, the area might begin healing quicker or growing more hair than you would have expected if you had not received PRP injections.