Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week I’m going to talk about what I’ve been wanting to do myself for quite some time now, PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma).
PRP consists of injections mostly in the joints, ligaments, tendons, and even the scalp to grow hair. It sounds scary and painful, but it’s not! Before writing this note, I went to Bristol and had one of our PM providers inject PRP into my knee. Note: check the link at the end of this note to see that procedure in real time!
As I have said many times before, I wouldn’t tell my patients to do anything I wouldn’t do myself!
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)?
PRP consists of two elements: PLASMA and PLATELETS.
- Plasma is the liquid part.
- Platelets play a vital role in healing throughout the body. Platelets are mostly known to help clot blood, but they also contain growth factors that can trigger cell reproduction and stimulate tissue regeneration and healing.
It’s a simple process. We take blood from your arm, spin it down using a special centrifuge, and get the platelet-rich plasma off of it. I call it liquid gold because that’s what it looks like! It doesn’t look red, it looks gold. Once we get the platelets, we inject them. The centrifuge used makes a huge difference.
Traditionally many people think of PRP as something that is very painful, and in some ways they’re right. In the past, after getting PRP you would almost have to immobilize and be on crutches for a few days. It was pretty painful. But with this new centrifuge, we’re able to take off the white blood cells (which create a ton of inflammation), and in doing so make it virtually painless, with hardly any down time!
Getting the Most Out of PRP
There are a few best practices to consider in order to get the most out of a PRP injection. The first thing to understand is the process. After an injection it takes about 2-6 weeks to really take full effect. An injection lasts about 9 months, so it’s not a permanent thing. You also may need more than one injection.
PRP is very safe. There are not a lot of contraindications. By taking the white and red blood cells out, it isn’t painful. We also get more growth factors by doing it this way, and you won’t need crutches!
A few warnings:
- You don’t want to do PRP if you’ve had Hepatitis C, or have current HIV or blood cancer.
- For 3-5 days before getting the injection, try to avoid Aspirin, NSAIDs, Fish Oil (Omega 3’s), and Vitamin E. Hopefully, if you’re on a blood thinner you can stop it for a couple of days before and after the injection (check with your doctor).
- Try not to consume caffeine or alcohol the day before, day of, and day after injection. It tends to work better this way because both caffeine and alcohol can affect platelet function.
PRP is easy and I think it works as good as some of the rooster comb type injections. It’s definitely less expensive.
Note: PRP is not covered by insurance.
Who Needs PRP?
PRP helps with arthritis and osteoarthritis. Anyone that’s my age, been active their whole life, is probably going to have a little arthritis in their knee joints, hips, shoulder, ligaments, and/or tendons. A lot of what we do in regenerative medicine is keep the body young and moving. If you’re in pain (bone on bone) you’re not going to move much, because it HURTS!
If you have no cartilage in your knee joint, then PRP is not going to regrow enough cartilage to avoid a knee replacement, but it may help you put it off for a while. You can get these as often as you want, because it’s your own blood that’s being injected. There’s very few side effects. It’s not a drug that’s being injected. It’s your own blood. That’s what makes this easy.
Note: many Ortho docs include PRP when they do major knee or hip surgery. They will bathe your joint in your own PRP during the surgery.
As I always say, most people come to see me (or most any doctor) because they’re either hurting or they’re tired. Think about PRP if you have sore, chronic joint problems due to age or injuries. Note: athletes do this as well as young people.
There’s other exciting things on the horizon, i.e., more potent stem cells. Once the FDA gets everything worked out, I’ll give you those resources. Now, on to the video!
Watch this short video to see me actually get PRP in my knee.