Platelet-rich plasma is a form of regenerative medicine. It uses injections of your own blood platelets to help with healing. This treatment hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet but is offered in the U.S.
What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Platelets, or thrombocytes, are a type of blood cell. Their main function is clotting blood. They’re produced in your bone marrow.
Platelets contain growth factors. These are proteins that may be helpful in healing injuries.
How Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Work?
A healthcare professional will collect a small amount of your blood. They will place your blood into a centrifuge. This spins your blood at different speeds until it separates into different layers. One layer is the platelet-rich plasma. This layer of plasma may have as much as three times more platelets than regular blood.
The platelet-rich plasma will then be injected into your affected area. Your doctor may first numb the area with local anesthetic. The pain at the site may increase for the first two weeks. It could be several weeks before you feel any improvement.
Recovery. After your treatment, your doctor might recommend you:
- Ice the area for 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the first two days after your treatment. Some redness and swelling may appear after the procedure.
- Avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications ( NSAIDs) after your treatment as this may block the effect
- Avoid activities that put stress on the area of treatment
- Check with your doctor before you return to vigorous physical activity such as running and cycling
Is Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment Effective?
The effectiveness of platelet-rich plasma treatment depends on several factors, including:
- Your overall health
- Whether your injury is chronic (it developed over time) or acute (sudden and serious)
- Which part of your body needs treatment
- The preparation of the platelet-rich plasma treatment
Some randomized trials have found that platelet-rich plasma treatment isn't effective. But there were also some clinical trials that supported its use.
Knee osteoarthritis. When it comes to PRP for knees, studies have shown that some types of platelet-rich plasma treatment may be effective in improving low- to moderate-grade knee osteoarthritis.
Some studies have found that platelet-rich plasma injections significantly reduced pain compared to placebos. People’s physical function also improved significantly. These benefits continued at 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups.
Neither the American College of Rheumatology nor the Arthritis Foundation recommend the use of platelet-rich plasma treatment for people with knee and hip osteoarthritis. They say the treatment hasn’t been standardized in terms of preparations and techniques. This means you can’t be sure of what your dose contains.
Treatment of knee osteoarthritis is difficult because of the low regenerative capability of knee cartilage. There are no cures for osteoarthritis. Treatment focuses on improving symptoms and delaying the need for knee replacement surgery.
Chronic tendon injuries. Platelet-rich plasma may be effective in treating chronic tendon injuries like tennis elbow. But for other chronic tendon injuries, such as jumper’s knee, experts say that platelet-rich plasma treatment may not be more effective than traditional treatment.
Fractures. The treatment hasn’t shown significant benefit for fractures so far.
Risks of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment
There’s no chance of an allergy or immune reaction to platelet-rich plasma treatment because the plasma is taken from your own blood. Side effects and complications are rare but may include pain at the injection site and a low risk of infection.
Cost of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment
The total cost of a platelet-rich plasma treatment, including facility fees and physician fees, can be between $750 to $2000. For some people, more than one injection may be needed. In comparison, the cost of surgery for various musculoskeletal conditions can be between $10,000 to $15,000.
Platelet-rich plasma treatments may not be covered by your insurance because the treatment is not approved by the FDA. There aren't many insurance plans that reimburse these treatments. Check with your insurance to find out more.