Did you know that over 3 million people are injured in car accidents every year in the United States? In sports, over 2 million athletes of all ages and sports suffer injuries every year. Emergency rooms see over 8 million patients annually for slip, trip, and fall injuries. Injuries sustained in these types of accidents often involve joints, particularly the athletes. Count the torn meniscus in the knee, a torn labrum in the shoulder, and dislocated elbows among the many areas affected. How are these injuries being treated?
PRP injections have risen in popularity due to their effectiveness in treating these injuries and their relatively low cost. So, why aren’t more people using this treatment?
What Is a PRP Injection?
Our understanding of how the body heals itself has led scientists to discover and use platelet-rich plasma in the form off regenerative medicine. PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, harnesses the body’s natural growth factors and enhances its ability to heal itself. Its most effective healing power occurs in the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Platelets are the blood cells responsible for clotting and healing/growing new cells. Plasma makes up the liquid portion of the body’s blood. Plasma provides the path for red and white blood cells to circulate through the body.
Think of your blood as the bus that carries the repair crew to the job site and your platelets as the repair crew. Once at the jobsite, activating the platelets to begin the repairs plays a pivotal role in healing.
Several types of PRP injection therapies exist. At our Portland, Oregon clinic, we begin by harvesting one or more tubes of the patient’s blood. This blood runs through a centrifuge that separates the platelets from the plasma. Once we’ve concentrated these activated platelets, we inject this concentration into the injured tissue.
The body’s healing process combines with the PRP’s new growth factors, stimulating and increasing the number of new cells your body produces to repair the injured tissue. Simply put, PRP injections take the patient’s healing system and amplify it, making it more effective.
What Conditions Can Platelet-Rich Plasma Treat?
PRP injections are gaining popularity in the world of cosmetic treatments. Dermatologists turn to PRP injections to treat various skin conditions like acne scars, age spots, and hyperpigmentation. PRP injections are also effective at treating fine lines and wrinkles, loose skin, enlarged pores, and stretch marks.
Sports injury clinics use PRP to treat everything from superficial tendonitis and arthritis pain to more severe injuries like torn tendons and muscle injuries affecting ankles, shoulders, hip joints, spine, wrist, and knee joints.
What Is the Treatment Process?
A PRP injection can be performed at hospitals, an operating room, or your sports injury clinic by a board certified sports medicine doctor. Expect the actual office time to run anywhere from 30 minutes to as much as one and a half hours, depending on the number of shots you’ll need.
Before your treatment, you might need to stop taking certain medications. Blood thinners, ibuprofen, and aspirin thin the blood and counteract the effectiveness of PRP. Some supplements, particularly those with omega-3 fatty acids, should also be ceased before treatment.
Your doctor will review these before your treatment.
After checking in, a nurse or physician will draw one or more vials of blood. At this point, you will sit back and wait for the blood to process through the centrifuge. Most of the time you’ll be able to relax in the waiting room.
Once the activated platelets are separated, you return to the operating room for the injection. In most cases, this space won’t resemble an actual hospital operating room, but it should be clean and offer a sterile area for you to sit or lay on while the injection/s takes place.
Your doctor will often use ultrasound imaging technology to help anesthetize the target area and guide the injection needle to the injury. The actual injection can take several minutes on average, though this could take longer depending on the targeted area.
What Should You Expect After the PRP Injection?
In most cases, you will have to rest the day of the procedure. Afterwards, you should limit the use of the joint, muscle, or area of injection. Some movement is encouraged because it helps spread the PRP to the surrounding tissue for absorption.
After several weeks, you should start to see and feel noticeable results. In 4 to 6 months, the effectiveness should be complete. If you haven’t experienced sufficient improvement in mobility or decreased pain, you might need another injection or consider other options.
Are There Any Side Effects?
One of the benefits of a PRP injection is they use the patient’s blood, so there won’t be any reaction by the body to the PRP. The procedure involves drawing your blood, so you should eat and hydrate well before to help mitigate the effects, usually dizziness or feeling light-headed. In some cases, fainting can occur from drawing blood, so if you are prone to fainting, you should have someone drive you to and from the procedure.
You may shower and wash the injection site the next day. You will likely feel some slight pain at the injection site. General soreness and bruising are common and to be expected.
If you feel any sharp or intense pain in the area, let your doctor know immediately.
Does My Insurance Cover the Procedure?
Insurance plans vary widely, and in many cases, the procedure isn’t covered. The cost can be as little as a few hundred dollars per treatment to several thousand dollars. You may check with your insurance provider before having PRP injections.
Schedule a PRP Consultation Today
If you’ve suffered an injury and believe a PRP injection could be an effective treatment, we encourage you to contact our clinic today and schedule your free consultation.
Sports Health Northwest in Portland, Oregon, led by Dr. David Westerdahl, MD, FAAFP, RMSK, a board certified sports medicine physican who specializes in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions and sports-related injuries. We help patients overcome injury and pain, enhance recovery, and improve their overall quality of life.