Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is a substance that, when injected, is thought to help the body heal.
Plasma is a part of your blood that has proteins called “factors” that help your blood clot. It also has proteins that help the growth of cells. Scientists have made PRP by separating the plasma from the rest of the blood and concentrating it.
The idea is that giving PRP injections to damaged tissues will help your body grow new, healthy cells and speed up the healing process. Researchers think that the body’s tissues may heal faster if they get prepared growth injections. This is because the tissue growth factors are more concentrated in them.
No one knows for sure that the treatment works. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it as a treatment either (FDA). But it has been known for well-known athletes to use these injections to help their injuries heal.
What are PRP injections used for?
Scientists are trying PRP injections in a number of different ways. Some examples of these are:
- Loss of hair. PRP has been injected into the scalp by doctors to help hair grow and stop hair loss. Research from 2014 says that PRP injections are a good way to treat androgenic alopecia, which is also called “male pattern baldness.”
- Tendon injuries. Tough, thick bands of tissue called tendons connect muscles to bones. When hurt, they usually take a long time to get better. Doctors have used PRP injections to treat long-term tendon problems like tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis in the ankle, and jumper’s knee, which causes pain in the patellar tendon in the knee.
- Acute injuries. Doctors have used PRP injections to treat sports injuries like torn hamstrings or sprained knees.
- Postsurgical repair. After surgery, doctors sometimes use PRP injections to fix a torn tendon or ligament, like the rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder (such as the anterior cruciate ligament).
- Osteoarthritis. People with osteoarthritis may benefit from PRP injections in the knee. A 2015 study found that PRP injections work better than the traditional therapy of hyaluronic acid injections to treat osteoarthritis.
How to do a PRP injection?
Here’s what you can usually expect from a PRP injection:
- A person who works in health care will take a sample of your blood. Where the PRP will be injected will determine how much of the sample is needed. For example, in one study, 20 millilitres of blood were taken to be injected into the scalp. This is about the same size as one teaspoon.
- The blood is put into a machine that spins it around. This machine spins very quickly, which makes the parts of the blood separate. It takes about 15 minutes to separate them.
- A technician takes the separated plasma and gets it ready to be injected into the area that needs it.
- Doctors often use imaging techniques, like ultrasound, to find specific places to inject, like the tendon. The PRP will then be injected into the area by your doctor.