What is plasma and what are platelets?
Plasma is the liquid portion of whole blood. It is composed largely of water and proteins, and it provides a medium for red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to circulate through the body. Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are blood cells that cause blood clots and other necessary growth healing functions.
Platelet activation plays a key role in the body's natural healing process.
What is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and what are PRP injections?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. In this way, PRP injections use each individual patient's own healing system to improve musculoskeletal problems.
PRP injections are prepared by taking anywhere from one to a few tubes of your own blood and running it through a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets. These activated platelets are then injected directly into your injured or diseased body tissue. This releases growth factors that stimulate and increase the number of reparative cells your body produces.
Ultrasound imaging is sometimes used to guide the injection. The photographs below illustrate a PRP injection into a patient's torn tendon. The ultrasound guidance is shown at left and the injection is shown at right.
Platelet-rich plasma has been found to significantly enhance the healing process, and using a PRP injection for shoulder pain caused rotator cuff tear, Achilles tendon ruptures, and for other soft-tissue injuries is becoming more common. PRP has also been demonstrated to improve function and reduce pain in people who have tendonitis or chronic conditions such as tennis or golfer's elbow.
Some of the key advantages of PRP injections are that they can reduce the need for anti-inflammatories or stronger medications like opioids. In addition, the side effects of PRP injections are very limited because, since the injections are created from your own blood, your body will not reject or react negatively to them.