PRP Injections Q & A
by Rainer Fischer, ND
What Is PRP?
PRP stands for “platelet-rich plasma.” Blood is primarily composed of a liquid called plasma, and within the plasma are solid components: red and white blood cells and platelets. Although platelets may be best-known for their function in making blood clot, they also contain hundreds of proteins. These proteins — called growth factors — help promote healing of body tissues. PRP is a concentrated form of plasma in which the concentration of platelets can be five to 10 times richer than normal plasma.
How Is PRP Made?
PRP is usually made from the patient’s own blood. After cleaning the patient’s skin, the doctor or technician draws blood from a vein. The platelets are separated from the remaining cells, placed in a machine called a centrifuge, and spun to concentrate the platelets. The concentrated platelet liquid is then ready for use in PRP treatments.
How Does PRP Work?
Scientists still haven’t determined exactly how PRP works. That’s partly because whatever happens seems to occur on the cellular level, and it is very difficult to see or measure. Research has been performed that indicates the concentrated growth factors may speed the healing process. Some studies appear to imply that PRP tricks the body into thinking an old injury is actually a new injury, so the body activates a healing response.
PRP Is Used to Treat Which Conditions?
Research thus far indicates PRP may be most effective in chronic or old tendon injuries. PRP seems to be particularly effective in cases of tennis elbow — an injury to tendons on the outside of the elbow. It has also been used for chronic Achilles tendonitis or patellar tendon injuries in the knee, and for knee and other joint arthritis. Plantar fasciitis is another condition that seems to respond well to PRP. and doctors also begin to use PRP in support of surgical repairs of tendons, acute tendon and ligament injuries, and knee arthritis. (See also ‘Conditions Treated With PRP’)
Is PRP Proven By Any Studies?
PRP is a relatively new treatment and more research is still underway. However, current data already suggests that PRP is in many cases superior to steroid injections, it can prevent surgery, and it helps where other conservative treatments have failed.