Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for Joint Osteoarthritis
What is platelet rich plasma?
Platelet rich plasma, or PRP, is a type of regenerative medical treatment. It has been used not only for cosmetic treatments such as ‘vampire facials’, but also medically to inject areas such as joints (knees, hips, elbows) and tendons (rotator cuff, patellar, Achilles and elbow tendons) to facilitate healing and regeneration. It is a safe, non-surgical method to heal tissues and avoid or delay the need for more invasive medical or surgical treatment such as knee-replacement surgery.
Blood platelets are produced in bone marrow, with the primary function of clotting blood. Platelets contain hundreds of bioactive substances that play an important role in tissue healing, increasing blood circulation and decreasing inflammation. Plasma rich in platelets, can be separated from the blood and re-injected into your joints to help improve unwanted symptoms and allow for the healing of conditions such as osteoarthritis.
How does the treatment work and who is it for?
Platelet rich plasma involves injecting your own blood platelets back into your body. It is a common therapy in sports medicine to help manage musculoskeletal injuries. PRP can also be used to address muscle and ligament tears. Specifically, when the platelets are injected into joints such as your knee, they will get to work healing and repairing past damage. It’s a slow process, requiring a series of injections over a couple of months, and can be very effective in patients suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis from conditions such as osteoarthritis in the knee. After the initial series of injections, you may require one or two maintenance injections per year, depending on your symptoms.
What is the difference between PRP, steroid (cortisone) and hyaluronic acid injections?
PRP is a safe and effective way to heal the damage done by osteoarthritis. Since it involves injecting your own blood product back into the body, there are virtually no side effects.
It naturally promotes and accelerates the healing process resulting in decreased pain and decreased need for alternate treatments such as opioids, anti-inflammatory medications and steroids or cortisone injections. It can often delay or avoid the need for surgical intervention depending on the areas treated.
Other common procedures to treat osteoarthritis pain include cortisone (steroid) injections and hyaluronic acid injections. Cortisone injections rid the knee of pain instantly. Although cortisone covers up the pain temporarily, it does not offer any healing effects and in fact, repeated steroid injections, will cause deterioration of the joint ligaments and bones in the long run. This can accelerate your path towards procedures such as knee-replacement surgery. The healing effects of PRP can result in significant improvement by promoting natural healing.
Alternatively, hyaluronic acid therapy has been used in joints such as the knee by removing excess fluid and injecting hyaluronic acid in its place. This is meant to lubricate the knee joint but does not act as a healing agent. Platelet rich plasma, as previously mentioned, will have the same effects while, at the same time, healing the tissues.
What can I expect when I book a PRP treatment?
Since we must extract the blood platelets to use for the treatment, we will first draw a minimal amount of blood from your arm. A centrifuge is then used to spin and separate the blood into different layers. The layer we’re looking for is plasma that is rich in blood platelets.
The platelet rich plasma obtained from your own blood is injected into the treatment area, and that concludes the procedure.
There may be slight pain and stiffness at the treatment site for a few days, up to two weeks, but will subside. As we’ve determined, it’s a slow process, but once the initial healing period has passed, you should notice an improvement in knee pain and mobility. Studies have shown that a minimum or two treatments are required 2-4 weeks apart, followed up by maintenance treatments one to three times a year depending on symptoms. Patients that undergo multiple treatments generally see more success and significantly reduced joint pain.
If you have any questions about platelet rich plasma or would like to know more, please contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your personal needs and potential treatment possibilities.
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