Potential risks and benefits of PRP injections
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections have quickly become a popular medical treatment for many orthopedic conditions. This is likely because PRP injections have received much attention in the media due to the actions of many athletes using PRP injections to treat their own orthopedic injuries or its application to stimulate hair growth in those experiencing hair loss. PRP currently plays a big role in the field of regenerative medicine, however as the field expands it is only likely to have even more applications in the future.
What is PRP exactly?
Plasma is the liquid portion of blood usually composed of water and proteins. It serves as a medium for red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to circulate throughout the body. Platelets are a part of the blood and function to form blood clots and aid in body healing. This is where PRP comes in. PRP injections are a form of regenerative medicine that uses the blood’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, muscles strains or tears, ligaments, and minor arthritis. After collecting your blood, the tubes of blood are centrifuged to concentrate the platelets. The concentrated serum of platelets can then be used to inject directly into the injured body tissues which cause stimulation of growth factors and increase the number of reparative cells that your body produces. PRP was first used to accelerate healing after jaw or plastic surgeries. Now it has started to become implemented in many other applications within orthopedic medicine. PRP injections have also become well used in the cosmetic space, it can boost facial rejuvenation, volume, and aid in scar healing.
Potential benefits of PRP injections:
While the many new applications of PRP are continuing to expand, the research on PRP is certainly ongoing. When it comes to orthopedic conditions, there is a decent amount of evidence already indicating that PRP and regenerative medicine can potentially have many PRP benefits. There is ample evidence suggesting that PRP injections can assist with the healing of sports injuries affecting the joints, tendons, and other soft tissues of the body. The exact mechanism by which this happens is not yet fully understood. However, the current understanding is that PRP can help to heal the injury and ideally restore to some degree the functionality and mobility of the joint or muscle.
- It can provide symptomatic relief for knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the levels of hyaluronic acid to decrease and hyaluronic acid basically functions to cushion the joints so they continue working smoothly. PRP therapy has been thought to restore hyaluronic acid levels to some degree in the knee thereby reducing the disease progression.
- Most muscle and joint injuries take time to heal, often months to years. PRP can potentially decrease this time by reducing inflammation and swelling while healing.
- PRP injections are minimally invasive and can be technically simple in the hands of an experienced and well-trained provider. It requires blood samples that are drawn from the patient the day of the procedure and subsequently processed for concentration. The derived substance containing a high concentration of platelets is then injected into the affected area. For patients that have been recommended for major joint surgeries and do not desire to undergo surgery, PRP injections show promise to be a legitimate alternative.
Risks of PRP injections:
- There may be pain at the injection site after the procedure, usually a short-term ache or soreness. However, sometimes the pain may be felt deeper.
- Although any PRP injection would be done with properly sterilized equipment, there is still the possibility for an infection to occur at the site although rare.
- Some patients' bodies may reject their own serum and have an allergic reaction to the injection, in rare cases causing a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. This type of reaction happens when your body's immune system overreacts to a foreign substance that it recognizes as foreign. However, the likelihood of anaphylaxis is extremely low due to the patient's own blood being used to create the injected serum.
- The skin around the injection may appear bruised and discolored temporarily.
- There may be no improvement in the injured area after PRP injection. Not everyone reacts to PRP injections the same way and the joint pain may remain in some patients. In some patients, PRP may even exacerbate the patient's pain for a short period of time following the procedure, although this pain usually improves over the next year.
Overall, PRP injections are only increasingly looking like a legitimate option with a high potential for improvement of pain and function with a low risk of potential side effects for those patients dealing with chronic muscle/joint injuries and pain. It is unique in that it is able to aid with the healing and repair of the injured tissue rather than just alleviate the pain caused by injuries. PRP is an ideal option for those wanting a safe and simple approach to self-healing without unnecessary surgery.
Author: Tahany Moosa
Editor: Ospina Medical Team