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Platelet-Rich Plasma Injection (PRP)

By

Megan Freedman

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.

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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:

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  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

How do I prepare for my platelet-rich plasma injection?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection can improve your comfort level and outcome. You can prepare for a PRP injection by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history, alleriges, and medications you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.

  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin. Your doctor will give you individualized instructions for taking your specific medications and supplements.

Questions to ask your doctor

Having a PRP injection treatment can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before your procedure and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointment. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need a PRP injection? Are there any other options for treating my condition?

  • How long will the treatment take? When can I go home?

  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I return to work and other activities?

  • How often will I need PRP injections? How far apart will I get them?

  • What kind of assistance will I need at home? Will I need a ride home?

  • When and how will we know if the treatment is working?

  • How should I take my medications?

  • How will you treat my pain?

  • When should I follow up with you?

  • When and how should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my platelet-rich plasma injection?

Knowing what to expect after a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the platelet-rich plasma injection?

You may have discomfort and swelling near your injection for the first two to three days after the PRP injection. Your doctor may recommend or prescribe medication to treat discomfort. Tell your doctor if your pain is not well controlled by your medication because it can be a sign of a complication.

Most people feel less pain and increased mobility and strength within two to six weeks of a PRP injection. Your doctor may recommend additional injections or complementary treatments, such as physical therapy, depending on your condition.

When can I go home?

You will probably go home right after your PRP injection.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a PRP injection. Contact your doctor for questions or concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding

  • Fever

  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Drainage from the injection site

  • New or unexplained symptoms

  • Skin changes, such as rash or skin irritation

  • Swelling, warmth or redness

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 6, 2016

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Platelet rich plasma injection grafts for musculoskeletal injuries: a review. Musculoskeletal Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682411/.
  2. Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy – PRP. Orthohealing Center. http://www.orthohealing.com/plateletrichplasmatherapy-prp/.
  3. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy. Steadman Hawkins Clinic. http://www.shcdenver.com/tabid/9521/mid/15571/ContentPubID/1033/ContentClassificationGroupID/-1/Defa...
  4. PRP Q&A. Orthohealing Center. http://www.orthohealing.com/plateletrichplasmatherapy-prp/prp-q-a/.

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