The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. When the body becomes injured, a natural healing process occurs to repair the damaged tissue. The body signals platelets and other components in our blood supply to migrate to the site of injury. Under normal conditions, these platelets release a variety of growth factors that initiate and subsequently promote healing.
New advances in medicine have been developed to harness and concentrate these platelets and growth factors, to be precisely introduced to the injury site in an injectable form. The implantation of this biological material from a small amount of a patient’s own blood effectively “supercharges” the body’s capacity for healing and tissue repair. Healing in many instances may be associated with reduced pain and a quicker return to activity.
Many active patients are familiar with repetitive or overuse injuries that can cause micro tears of the muscle and/or tendon fibers resulting in weakness and pain at the injury site. This is commonly referred to as tendonitis, which is an acute inflammatory condition, or tendinosis which is a chronic degenerative condition. Both tendonitis and tendinosis affect the normal healing process of the damaged tissue and can lead to pain and dysfunction. A recent study looking at the treatment of elbow tendinosis (tennis elbow) with platelet rich plasma therapy, showed that over 90% of the patients were completely satisfied with their results and did not opt for surgery in the weeks and months following a single treatment. A similar study treating chronic Plantar Fasciitis pain with platelet rich plasma therapy also demonstrated favorable results after one year. In our practice, we use Platelet Rich Plasma therapy to treat both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
A very small amount of blood (around 10 cc's) is drawn from the arm into a sterile tube in the exact same manner as a standard blood sample. The tube containing your blood is placed into a centrifuge and spun to separate the platelets and growth factors from the other blood components. After a few minutes, the concentrated platelets and growth factors are removed from the same tube and re-introduced into the patient at the site of the injury. Using a sterile needle, we will inject the platelets and growth factors in and around the injury site. This is all accomplished without using any animal products or other foreign material.
Patients who are interested in exploring non-surgical treatment options before resorting to surgery may find platelet rich plasma therapy a viable option. Platelet rich plasma therapy is also an alternative to other non-surgical approaches if they have proven to be ineffective at addressing your injury. Traditional non-surgical interventions include: Corticosteroid (“cortisone”) injections, oral antiinflammatory medications, exercise and bracing. In many cases these modalities may not cure the condition, whereupon platelet therapy may potentially be of great benefit. Before being considered a candidate for platelet therapy, a complete examination must be performed. This will include a physical examination and diagnostic evaluation. Prior to treatment, you may be asked to refrain from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for a week. Following platelet rich plasma therapy treatment, some localized soreness may occur, which is typical of any injection. This can be addressed with ice, heat, or elevation as well as with acetaminophen. Physical therapy may also be prescribed.
For over twenty years, platelet rich plasma therapy has been used in many different fields of medicine including: cardiac surgery, oral surgery, dentistry and periodontal implants, orthopedics, wound care, sports medicine, neurosurgery, general surgery and cosmetics. Research and clinical data show platelet rich plasma therapy derived from the patient’s own blood is safe, with minimal risk of adverse reactions or complications. Because the platelets and growth factors are produced from your own blood, there is no risk of rejection or disease transmission. As with any injection into the body, there is a small risk of infection, however it is very rare.
In a study treating elbow tendinosis with platelet therapy, patients noted an improvement of 60% in their pain score at eight weeks. This study along with other studies treating different conditions suggests an improvement in function and a reduction in pain. However, the results may vary depending on the patient and the severity of the condition. Typically, depending on the exact nature of your condition, you may feel some relief within two or three weeks. If you do not feel any improvement with the reduction of pain or the restoration of function by the time of your follow up visit, additional injections may be necessary. It is important to exercise with restraint and to have regular follow-up examinations with your doctor before resuming regular physical activities. Discuss all your options with your treating physician to determine whether this therapy is right for you. PRP injections may be given alone or in conjunction with other therapies, such as Topaz Microtenotomy or Shockwave Therapy, to help accelerate healing.