What is platelet-rich plasma injection?

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection is a medical treatment for orthopedic injuries and conditions. PRP is a form of your own blood that has a high concentration of cells called platelets. Platelets contain substances called growth factors that reduce pain and inflammation and enhance your body’s ability to heal itself. A PRP injection can eliminate the need for surgery for some people. 

PRP injections have been used to treat a range of conditions including those in the mouth and teeth, brain, eyes, genitourinary system, and cardiovascular system. PRP injections are currently most frequently used to treat orthopedic conditions, including osteoarthritis, tendinitis, and ligament tears.

PRP injection is only one method used to treat orthopedic injuries and conditions. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.   

Other procedures that may be performed

A PRP injection can be used by itself or with one or more complementary treatments, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy. 

Why is platelet-rich plasma injection performed? 

Your doctor may recommend platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to treat certain soft-tissue injuries and conditions of the spine, hip, knee, shoulder, elbow and wrist. These include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Joint instability
  • Muscle, ligament and tendon tears
  • Sprains
  • Tendinitis 

Who performs a platelet-rich plasma injection?

Orthopedic surgeons perform platelet-rich plasma injections. Orthopedic surgeons are specially trained to treat problems of the bones and joints. They perform surgery and prescribe other treatments.

How is a platelet-rich plasma injection performed?

Your platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection will be performed in an outpatient setting, such as the doctor’s office. Your doctor may give you one injection treatment or may recommend a few PRP injection treatments over the course of a few months. The number of injections depends on how much your condition improves after each injection. 

The procedure takes one to two hours and generally includes these steps:

  1. A small amount of your blood is drawn from a vein, usually in the arm.
  2. A technician will spin your blood in a machine called a centrifuge while you wait. This creates the PRP with a five-fold increase in platelet concentration.
  3. Your doctor will numb the area of your injury with a local anesthetic. 
  4. Your doctor will inject the PRP into the area of your injury. Your doctor may use painless ultrasound imaging during the injection to locate the best places to insert the PRP.
  5. You will likely go home right after your PRP injection. 

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to you and your care team. You will feel a brief pinch or prick during the needle insertion. Your healthcare team will give you sufficient pain and sedative medications if you need them to stay comfortable. Tell a member of your healthcare team if you are uncomfortable in any way.

What are the risks and potential complications of a platelet-rich plasma injection?  

Complications after a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection are not common, but any procedure involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery. Risks and potential complications of a PRP injection include: 

  • Adverse reaction or problems related to local anesthetic, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Damage to nerves and blood vessels
  • Infection 
  • Pain
  • Injection site reactions including swelling, tenderness and warmth

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by: 

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your injection and during recovery
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, or increase in pain
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed