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Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection

Whether you are a collegiate athlete, take part in regular exercise, or enjoy casual recreational activities, many of us have unfortunately dealt with some type of injury. The University of Iowa Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation offers therapies on the cutting edge of medical science to try to optimize healing of injuries for patients at any age.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is a form of treatment that has shown promise for relieving pain by promoting long lasting healing of certain musculoskeletal conditions. Since the initial use of PRP in 1987 following an open-heart surgery PRP has been safely used and documented in many fields including; orthopedics, sports medicine, denistry, ENT, neurosurgery, ophthamology, urology, cardiothoracic, and maxillofacial surgery. This treatment option focuses on promoting the healing potential of the body to heal injuries through concentrating growth factors from the patient’s own blood.

How does the PRP procedure work?

Our blood is made up of red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. After injury occurs, platelets in our body are activated and release healing proteins called growth factors. Growth factors help to accelerate tissue and wound healing.

Platelet-rich plasma is a particularly attractive source of these growth factors since it can be easily obtained from a patient's own blood at the bedside and contains a six‐fold concentration of TGF-β (increases musculoskeletal connective tissue), PDGF (attracts stem cells for repairing the body), epidermal growth factor (stimulates connective tissue growth), vascular endothelial growth factors and fibroblast growth factor-2 (stimulate oxygen and nutrient flow).

What will happen?

During the PRP procedure, experienced physicians and trained staff draw a small amount of the patient's blood, and place it in an FDA approved device which is then spun at over 3000 RPM in a centrifuge for about 15 minutes. The centrifuge is used to separate different parts of the blood and the PRP is separated from the other components. After the blood has been separated in the centrifuge, the physician will then inject the concentrated PRP into the site of the patient's injury, using ultrasound image guidance to ensure that the PRP is delivered to the location that the physician believes will be most beneficial to the patient.

Does it work?

As a cutting-edge procedure, further research needs to be done to better understand the effects. Currently, there is some evidence that PRP is effec/ve for bone healing, car/lage repair, and wound healing. This therapy has been shown to help to heal tennis elbow and some other sports injuries. Currently, there are ongoing clinical trials assessing the efficacy of PRP for chronic achilles tendinopathy, bone healing, knee cap pain, ankle sprains, plantar fascii/s, and numerous other musculoskeletal injuries.

What are the potential benefits to using PRP?

  • Safety: PRP is a safe procedure preformed by physicians at the University of Iowa, who use ultrasound guidance to deliver the PRP to the injured tissue while watching it cover the tissue and avoiding areas that would be less helpful to the patient. Each physician has knowledge and experience with PRP procedure.
  • Easy recovery time: Patients typically experience minimal to moderate discomfort following the injection which may last for up to 1 week. This is an expected and healthy healing response. Elevation of the limb, and modification of activity is suggested, and pain medication is prescribed if needed for more severe pain. Although rest may be suggested, some patients are able to continue with normal activities or work shortly after the injection.
  • Potential benefit: The PRP procedure could potentially speed recovery time, helping to decrease pain and increase performance of the injured area.
  • Low risk of infection: The PRP procedure is done with the patient's own blood therefore helping to decrease infection.
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What conditions can the PRP procedure be used for?

PRP may be recommended to help patients with some of the following conditions:

  • injured or torn tendons, muscles, and ligaments
  • athletic injuries
  • bone healing
  • soft tissue recovery
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How long does the procedure take?

The PRP injection takes less than 1 hour including the preparation and recovery time.

How often can the PRP procedure be done?

With the response varying from patient to patient and for different injury locations and severities, the number of injections recommended may vary from a single injection up to 3–5.

How soon should I be able to return to regular activities?

Unlike the a cortisone shot which may provide short-term relief, PRP therapy focuses on providing long term healing to the injured site. As the goal of PRP is to stimulate growth of new tissue, our rehabilitation specialists will recommend a treatment program for each patient's individual needs. Treatment following PRP injection therapy may consist of physical therapy or an exercise program.