PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma.
PRP treatment involves drawing a small amount of blood from the patient, processing that blood in a centrifuge, and spinning the sample down to remove the red and white blood cells. What we’re left with is the fluid component of the blood (or plasma) along with platelets, which are the component of blood that is necessary for clotting. We take that preparation, and then we inject it back into the joint that is affected by arthritis.
The key science behind PRP is that plasma contains all of the normal healing factors in our blood.
Those healing factors are delivered throughout our body to try and heal different kinds of injuries or illnesses, but they’re usually delivered in very, very small quantities.
As you know, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage breaks down over time. And because there’s no actual blood supply to the cartilage, plasma is only able to diffuse into the joint in minute quantities via joint fluid.
Using PRP, we’re essentially hacking the body’s natural healing system by withdrawing the healing properties in larger quantities and injecting them directly into the affected area, or where they’re desperately needed.
Is PRP effective?
A 2013 paper written at the University of Toronto Orthopaedic Sports Medicine department evaluated the effectiveness of PRP in knee osteoarthritis. The results of the study showcased how PRP was effective in about 80% of patients — it substantially reduced pain and/or improved their joint function.
In another study, researchers examined patients that complained of mild knee pain over the course of 14 months. Each arthritic knee was first subjected to an MRI to evaluate the overall levels of joint damage and then received one PRP injection.
Following that, the patients were assessed at the 1 week, 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year mark. An additional MRI was also conducted. Researchers discovered that most patients had less pain than reported earlier in the year. Furthermore, their knees had not experienced further degeneration.
This is a significant finding, because patients suffering from osteoarthritis typically experience a decline of 4 to 6% of total cartilage volume each year. There’s evidence that PRP injections halt this process — which is welcome news for those considering the treatment.
How does PRP work?
The process of PRP starts with a small amount of blood drawn from the patient. A centrifuge is used to process the sample, spinning fast enough to separate out less viscous portions of the blood (red and white blood cells) . What remains is the fluid component of the blood (or plasma) along with platelets. This concentrated mixture is then injected back into the affected joints to speed up the natural recovery process.
The procedure is fairly quick. Blood is drawn by a nurse and then processed in the centrifuge (usually for 6 to 12 minutes). Afterwards, the patient is wheeled to the examination room, where the PRP is injected into the affected joint. The entire procedure can be completed within 15 to 20 minutes.
Is PRP safe?
PRP is a very safe treatment. Patients who struggle with needles may experience a very minor discomfort. Needles are used twice in the procedure — once for drawing blood and once more for injecting PRP into the joint. Because this process uses the patient’s own blood and natural healing system (without the addition of any other chemicals or drugs), there are no risks for an allergic reaction or rejection by the body.
Athletic Edge Sports Medicine has years of experience in advanced techniques to diagnose, monitor, and treat osteoarthritis. Our world-class team is on hand to provide all the assistance you need. Contact us to examine the available options and treatment plans.