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What is platelet-rich plasma?

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a therapeutic method used to treat tendinopathy, joint injuries, arthritis pain, and more. It involves using a patient’s own, whole blood to create a plasma enriched with a higher platelet concentration. Platelets are pieces of cell that help slow or stop bleeding (and can stimulate the body’s healing responses). Once PRP is ready, the health care provider injects it back into the patient to help regenerate and repair damaged tissue.

Your doctor may recommend PRP if other treatment methods haven’t worked for you. It may require multiple injections to fully treat your injury. Providers usually pair PRP paired with physical therapy to help you get the best possible outcomes.

PRP is not a solution for short-term pain; it’s designed to support long-term connective tissue health. It also may be used to help prolong the need for surgery or avoid it altogether.

PRP can treat:

  • Tendon-related pain (including lateral and medial epicondyle tendons, rotator cuff, hip girdle, peroneal tendon, patellar and Achilles’ tendon) 
  • Osteoarthritic (due to wear and tear) and related pain, as in the knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, or hip 
  • Chronic sprain (as in ankle, knee, hip, sacroiliac joint, or plantar fascia) 
  • Muscle tears 

Certain conditions rule out PRP as a treatment method. Your provider will discuss this with you during your consultation.

What are the risks of PRP injection?

You may experience discomfort or pain in the area you were injected. This pain can last up to a week. Serious side effects and complications are rare, but include:

  • Allergic reaction 
  • Bleeding 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Infection 
  • Paralysis

What to expect

PRP is usually an outpatient procedure. Before your injection appointment, please let your doctor know if you:

  • Have any allergies 
  • Are taking blood-thinning or anti-platelet medications 
  • Have a history of getting lightheaded or fainting during procedures

Depending on your medical history, you may be asked to adjust or stop taking some of your medications prior to the procedure. Discontinue NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, etc.) at least 7 days before your injection.

During your procedure, a provider draws blood from your arm much like any other blood draw you may have had in the past. Whole blood contents are placed in a centrifuge, which helps separate out a concentrated level of PRP, among other things. Once your PRP is ready, the provider doing the injection marks the area to be injected and sterilizes it. At this time, they may apply a numbing spray or other anesthetic to your skin to reduce pain.

Your provider uses sterile, ultrasound-guided injection to help visualize the affected part of your body. Once found, they will inject your PRP into the marked area.

Doctors typically recommend physical therapy before and after your PRP injection. Your provider may clear you for light exercise, but you need to rest the affected area for some time. This depends on your unique situation.

Ask your provider about using ice after your injection is complete.

Avoid using of NSAIDs for at least 2 weeks after the injection. You may be allowed to take over-the-counter acetaminophen for any pain.

You may shower on the same day as your PRP injection, but please avoid immersing the area in water. Do not use hot tubs, take baths, or go swimming.

Athletes undergoing PRP may have different or added instructions and restrictions. Your provider will counsel you on your instructions and will help develop a timeline for how much time you should take off from your sport. This advice is meant to help you avoid re-injuring the area by returning to play too soon.

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