Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
on 19 June 2016
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is still a relatively new treatment, steadily garnering acceptance by the mainstream as an alternative solution to chronic pain or sports injury. High-profile athletes are adopting them for a quick turnaround from injury, validating PRP therapy as a viable treatment option.
A PRP procedure is more than a simple injection of platelet-rich plasma into the patient's injured area however. There are a few steps, before and after, that a potential patient should be aware of before undergoing rounds of PRP treatment.
Pre-PRP Injection Precautions
Platelet-rich plasma therapies are known as outpatient procedures. Since a patient's blood, from which the plasma is extracted, must be drawn and prepared beforehand, procedures typically take 30-40 minutes.
This applies to onetime injections, or a series of PRP treatments spanning over weeks or months. PRP injection frequency will be determined by the doctor, with input from the patient on their threshold for pain.
Before drawing blood to create the PRP solution ready for injection, these are the recommended guidelines to follow to ensure everything goes smoothly:
Keep free from corticosteroid medications for 3 months prior to the procedure, as these medications can inhibit the effects of PRP. Corticosteroids are still often used for soft tissue and joint pain, but their popularity is waning as we learn more and more about other more effective alternatives, such as PRP.
If you are on an anticoagulant medication, this may need to be stopped prior to the procedure. Discuss with your doctor.
Drink lots of fluids the day before and the morning of your appointment. Your urine should be light yellow to clear. Adequate hydration helps with drawing your blood.
At least 3 days before the procedure, stop taking any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. These medications may block the effects of PRP. It's also best to stay off of these medications for 8 weeks after your injections are finished.
The Step-by-Step PRP Process
After taking the advised precautions, you're ready for your first PRP injection session. If you haven't had something like this done before, this step-by-step process should put you at ease (there's really nothing to be afraid of!).
The whole session will include the blood draw, preparation of the plasma, and the injection itself:
To acquire the patient's platelets, blood is drawn from their arm into a vial, usually 15 to 50mL.
The drawn blood is processed in a centrifuge machine, where the components of the blood are separated (platelets, white blood cells, etc.).
Platelet-rich plasma is created from the blood, which the doctor will then prepare for injection.
The targeted area is prepped with disinfectant such as alcohol or iodine. Sometimes ultrasound is needed to deliver the plasma in a very specific location the ultrasound probe would be used at this time, creating a live image of the injured area. The doctor would project the area onscreen so he can map the injection.
Injection time! Using a syringe and needle, the doctor will inject a seemingly small amount of PRP, usually between 210 ml, into the troublesome area.
The injection site is cleaned once more, and bandaged.
PRP therapy takes some time for noticeable progression, though biological responses are stimulated from the time of injection. The injection site may be swollen or uncomfortable for several weeks.
Post-Injection Followup Care
With the injection site likely swollen and tender from the PRP treatment, PRP injection recovery time will typically take several weeks, and full recovery may take up to 8 weeks.
Depending on where the platelet rich plasma is received or the severity of the initial injury, doctors may suggest:
A brace or sling to keep the area secure and immobile. Patients who receive ankle or knee injections, for example, may need to use crutches.
Applying a cold compress a few times a day (1020 minutes) to reduce pain and swelling.
For those who don't have a physically demanding job, you can return to work the following day. Normal activities, like extra curricular sports, can resume when pain and swelling subsides.
Physical therapy is very important as a part of the post-PRP procedure as well. Simple exercises tailored to the injured area will help build back strength, and can slow further muscle or joint degeneration.
Now that you know what takes place in a standard PRP injection session, you can finally have that troublesome joint, muscle, or tendon pain sorted out.
To learn more about the PRP treatments we offer at our RegenerVate clinic, contact us today!