Will platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy help a patient avoid surgery?

The extent of the injury that patient has suffered has much to do with how successful a treatment plan is. For example, if a patient comes to us with a mild case of arthritis, platelet rich plasma therapy has the potential to help the patient with the pain they suffer from the arthritis, as well as help, prevent additional degeneration of the joints. However, if the patient comes to us suffering from advanced arthritis, the goal of treatment will be to minimize the chronic pain the patient suffers and to help improve the function that the arthritis is interfering with. In advanced degenerative arthritis, if the PRP therapy is combined with stem cells, then joint replacement surgery may be avoided.

Where does the plasma come from that is used in the platelet rich plasma treatments?

This plasma comes directly from the patient. The process for obtaining the platelets is performed right in the doctor’s office and only takes approximately half-hour from start to finish. A small sample of blood is taken from the patient’s arm using the same process as a blood test. The blood is then placed in a machine called a centrifuge. This machine spins the blood at such a high rate of speed that the red blood cells are separated from the platelets. The doctor then takes the concentrated platelets and injects into the area of injury or where the patient suffers from pain.

Are the PRP therapy injections painful?

Since the success of the therapy is dependent on injecting the platelets exactly where the injury is, the doctor will use either an ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance to determine where the injection should go. The number of treatments a patient needs depends on the condition and extent of the patient’s injury, but the average patient will need two to six injections spread out over time. Typically, patients experience significant pain reduction after just one or two shots.

PRP injections are not usually painful, but that may vary depending on the part of the body that the injury is located at. Sometimes if the injection is made into the joint there can be some discomfort. If this happens, the pain can be treated with over-the-counter acetaminophen (avoiding anti-inflammatory medications) and should only last a couple of days.

How long does it take for the treatments to begin to work?

As mentioned above, every patient is different, and their recovery process will vary. The good news is that unlike other types of injections that only provide temporary relief, PRP therapy healing is permanent. Typically, patients begin to experience a reduction in pain levels and increased function of the area within four to six weeks following treatments.

Are there risks to PRP therapy?

Since the platelets used in therapy are coming directly from the patients, there is no risk of any allergic reactions. Keep in mind, however, that any time there is an injection, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, or nerve damage. These risks are rare; however, it is important for all patients to be aware of all potential risks in order to give informed consent. Risks usually depend on what area of the body is being treated so make sure to discuss this issue with your doctor.