Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been in the headlines in the past several years, as many high-profile athletes and celebrities have turned to it in an effort to speed the healing associated with muscle strains, tendon issues, and even arthritis. The Seahawks’ Jesse Williams recently underwent PRP injections for his ailing knees. The Mariners’ Corey Hart used it to help treat a hamstring tear. Tiger Woods received PRP injections when he was suffering from Achilles tendinosis and credits it with accelerating his healing process.
Dr. Mark Reed is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who offers this service at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle for patients with musculoskeletal issues who are hoping to avoid surgery or just speed up the rehab process.
What is PRP therapy?
PRP therapy involves taking the patient’s own blood and placing it in a machine called a centrifuge which separates the blood into several components, one of which is called platelet-rich plasma. Platelets contain many growth factors which have been shown to be very important with regard to healing. The process of centrifuging concentrates these platelets so that they are present in much higher numbers than what would typically be found in the bloodstream.
That platelet-rich plasma is then injected at the site of the injury to induce and potentially accelerate the body’s natural healing process.
What conditions can be treated with PRP?
Many research studies have been performed, and many more are ongoing, which look at the effectiveness of PRP treatment. For many conditions, the jury is still out as we are continuing to look at the specific injuries and areas of the body that respond best to the treatment. The most promising results to date have been with chronic tendon conditions, including lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and patellar tendinitis.
The risks associated with the treatment are minimal, as we use the patient’s own blood to perform the treatments. While a patient may develop increased transient pain at the injection site, PRP appears to be no different than cortisone injections in terms of the likelihood of complications.
Because the procedure is low-risk, it can be a reasonable option for the patient who doesn’t respond to traditional conservative treatment (splinting, bracing, physical therapy, etc.) and wants to avoid surgery.
A list of conditions that can be treated include:
- Partial rotator cuff tears
- Labrum tears
- Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)
- Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
- Ulnar collateral ligament injury
- DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis
- Trochanteric bursitis
- Iliotibial band tendinitis
- Labrum tear
- Patellar tendinitis
- Quadriceps strain
- Hamstring strain
- Major ligament partial tears (MCL, LCL, ACL, PCL)
- Achilles tendinitis
- Peroneal tendinitis
- Posterior tibial tendinitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Chronic ankle instability
If you are suffering from a musculoskeletal injury and have not responded to first-line treatments such as immobilization or physical therapy, platelet-rich plasma therapy may be a reasonable option for you. Research is still ongoing into which conditions respond best to PRP treatments, but currently it appears to be best suited for chronic soft tissue injuries and arthritis. Insurance carriers do not always cover this type of treatment, so it’s important to check your eligibility with your provider.