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PRP injections | the new ‘natural’ solution

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is an innovative treatment for many conditions that have previously been difficult to manage with traditional treatments such as cortisone injections. It is a form of regenerative medicine that helps to give a biological ‘boost’ to the healing process. PRP treatment has received significant attention from the media and has been used by numerous professional athletes.


What is Platelet rich plasma?

Protein rich plasma therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. Conditions such as OA of the knee, tennis elbow and rotator cuff problems at the shoulder all respond really well to PRP and there is increasing evidence that other joint and tendon problems respond well to the therapy such as Achilles tendinopathy. 

It’s all about two constituents within the blood.  Plasma (the liquid portion of blood) and platelets (a type of blood cell) play an important role in healing and platelets (sometimes called Thrombocytes) help the blood to clot as well as containing growth factors that stimulate cell reproduction and tissue regeneration/healing of the treated area. PRP is simply a way of treating an injured tissue with a powerful and concentrated mix of the healing constituents within the blood. 

The treatment was pioneered by doctors treating professional athletes who were unable to resort to repeated cortisone injections – the only other treatment available to them – but with known damaging effects when repeated.  The science always takes a while to catch up with the outcomes observed in clinical practice but is now increasingly supporting the claims that PRP is effective in managing a range of conditions that previously proved elusive to treatment. 


How do you get PRP?

PRP is not something you can get off the shelf because the it comes from the patient themselves! A small amount of blood is taken from the cubital fossa at the elbow (in the same way as you always give blood). This blood is then put into a centrifuge to separate out the plasma and platelets. This unique PRP solution is then injected directly into the injured tissue under ultrasound guidance to ensure the exact site is located and treated. The PRP releases growth factors that stimulate and increase the number of reparative cells the body produces, thus accelerating recovery. 

After the injection, a patient must avoid exercise for a short period of time before beginning a rehabilitation exercise program.


What are the merits of using PRP?

The truth is that for many of the conditions that are being treated with PRP, there are not great therapeutic alternatives. Conditions like tennis elbow and rotator cuff problems are notoriously difficult to treat with conventional therapies – particularly when they are chronic and recalcitrant. Physiotherapy, Shockwave and cortisone injections are often attempted first but the problem can persist. So in short, PRP has become the treatment of choice for these conditions. 

PRP is prepared during the consultation so there is no wait, delay or need for storage. The treatment is safe and because the process involves using a sample of plasma from the patient themselves so it is tolerated well. PRP has been shown to achieve promising results for a range of conditions where other treatment modalities have limited success or indeed can be harmful. .

View more articles from Paul Hattam


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