Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections: What to Know
You may have heard about athletes like Tiger Woods getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to help heal an injury. These shots, which are based on your own blood, are increasingly being used to treat sports injuries and to help wounds heal after surgery. Some doctors even use it as a cosmetic procedure to target signs of aging, such as wrinkles. But does it work? Here’s what to keep in mind.
What’s in a PRP Shot?
Plasma is the liquid part of your blood that’s mostly made of water and protein. It lets red and white blood cells and platelets move through your bloodstream. Platelets are a type of blood cell that makes your blood clot. They also play a role in healing.
Doctors may use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) on injuries or damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints, and skin.
To collect plasma, a doctor draws blood from your body and uses a machine to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the rest of the blood. Then the doctor numbs the area of your body being treated with PRP injections. Once you’re numb, the doctor uses a needle to inject your plasma into the area of your body being treated.
For example, if you’re being treated for a muscle injury, your doctor would inject plasma into several locations in that muscle. In some cases, doctors use ultrasound technology during injections to make sure they’re targeting the right area. PRP injections usually take about 30 minutes, though it depends on the area you’re targeting.
Once platelets are in the area that’s being treated, they break down and release growth factors, which are compounds that help cells repair and renew. This is thought to trigger your body’s healing process.
What Can Platelet-Rich Plasma Treat?
PRP injections are used to treat torn tendons, tendinitis, muscle injuries, arthritis-related pain, and joint injuries. They’re becoming more common for cosmetic procedures, too. For example, dermatologists and hair replacement experts use PRP injections to treat a type of hair loss called androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, which affects men and women. And some dermatologists provide PRP treatments for the face. (You may have heard these called a “vampire facial.”)