Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP): How It Works
Updated: May 19
One of the most exciting discoveries in medicine is the body's ability to heal itself. Injuries to the bones and other soft tissues heal in different stages. Health care practitioners have now devised ways of making the most of the healing process.
Platelet-rich plasma treatment is seen as a form of regenerative medicine. This therapy enhances the ability of the body to heal itself by amplifying the natural growth factors used by your body to heal those tissues. Therefore, it helps patients heal faster and avoid more evasive methods of treatment.
PRP therapy has become highly popular in recent years. Its recent applications range from orthodontics to orthopedics, cosmetics, sports injuries, and more. Research continues to show that PRP injections can help treat a wide range of conditions.
Eden Derma Clinic offers you this extensive guide on platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Here, we'll help you understand every essential detail about PRP therapy.
Platelets & Plasma – What Are They?
Before diving into the details of platelet-rich plasma, it is important first to understand what plasma and platelets are and why they are crucial to the body.
Platelets are disk-shaped blood cells in the body. They are also called thrombocytes. They circulate around the body to help in blood clot formation after an injury occurs. The formation of blood clots helps to stop bleeding.
As we have mentioned earlier, natural growth factors are responsible for the healing of tissues. The platelets are a natural source of these growth factors. The different growth factors are released when the platelets are activated. They include the following:
· Platelet-derived growth factor
· Vascular endothelial growth factor
· Transforming growth factor-beta
· Insulin-like growth factor
· Platelet-derived angiogenic factor
That's not all: platelets release other crucial substances to the healing process. These substances include:
· Fibronectin (for adhesion, growth, and migration)
· Sphingosine 1-phosphate (for immune response and angiogenesis)
· Vitronectin (for spreading and cell adhesion)
Plasma, as you may already know, is the fluid part of the blood. It contains proteins, electrolytes, and water majorly and acts as the medium for the circulation of platelets and blood cells throughout the body. Therefore, platelet-rich plasma is a blood plasma that contains platelets in high concentrations.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy and How it Works
Platelet-rich plasma involves preparing the patient's blood to make it have platelets concentration that's above average. When such preparation is injected back to the site of injury, it begins the healing process. That's just a summary; let's get into the details.
The therapy involves injecting your own platelets. That way, it speeds healing of body tissues, including ligaments, tendons, joints, and muscles. Medical practitioners prepare the PRP injections by taking some tubes of your blood and centrifuges them. While centrifuging, the red and white blood cells separate from the blood plasma, which contains platelets, water, proteins, and electrolytes.
That is, other blood components separate from the platelet-rich plasma. The centrifugation process helps to increase the concentration of the platelets. The platelets are often activated before injection. What this means is that the clotting process is initiated artificially before the PRP reaches the target site.
Once these platelets get activated, they are injected into the injured area in your body. The injected PRP then immediately begin to clot and start producing different growth factors to speed up the healing at the affected area. The reparative cells produced by your body also increases in the process.
The manner of use of the PRP will depend on the type of treatment it is intended for. Sometimes, physicians require the use of ultrasound or endoscope imaging to ensure that the injection gets to the target location. The live, real-time fluoroscopic or ultrasonic imagery helps the doctor see the precise location where the treatment is delivered.
The growth factors, proteins, and other substances produced by the platelet-rich plasma help with cartilage growth. They enhance the growth of new blood vessels and increase cell migration. The regenerative actions of platelet-rich plasma explain the effectiveness of the therapy in treating several health conditions.
Applications of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy
The joy of PRP therapy is that it can be used for a variety of conditions. The first application of this therapy was during an open-heart surgery where surgeons used it to speed wound healing after the operation.
After this, maxillofacial surgeons also took the process up to enhance faster healing of bone reconstruction. Soon after this, medical professionals in sports adopted PRP injections to speed up recovery from injuries.
PRP injections are suitable for various anesthetic skin and hair improvements. They also help with plenty of musculoskeletal repairs and other health issues. Here are some of the different areas where PRP has proven useful:
· Hair Loss. According to a 2014 study, PRP injections prove useful in treating a condition referred to as male pattern baldness. When injected into the scalp, the platelet-rich plasma helps in promoting hair growth. It also help eradicate the issue of pattern baldness. At the same time, it prevents hair loss. For example, we at Eden Derma Clinic can combine PRP with certain medications to reverse hair loss. The combination stimulates the growth of hair follicles and manage the effects of testosterone present there.
· Aesthetic Use. Our qualified dermatologists can also use PRP therapy to enhance the growth of connective tissues in the face. That way, the wrinkles on the face smooth out, and skin colour is restored. This treatment can rejuvenate the skin in the lower eye region and remodel tissues in aged skin. It can also serve as an adjuvant treatment to laser therapy.
· Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in the knee. In recent years, doctors have injected platelet-rich plasma into the knees of patients with osteoarthritis. The results of the therapy have been amazing. Research shows the intra-articular PRP injections were more effective for treating osteoarthritis.
· Tendon Injuries. PRP treatments have been successful in speeding the recovery from injuries to the tissue connecting the muscle to the bone. Such injuries are usually very slow to heal. However, the use of PRP injections helps help the wounds heal faster even in cases of chronic tendon conditions.
· Postsurgical Treatments. Surgeons and dermal professionals, like we at Eden Derma Clinic, use PRP to speed up the healing process after cosmetic surgeries. It can also help during the repair of a torn tendon or ligament.
· Sexual Health. PRP therapy restores improved blood supply to this body. This can enhance sexual sensation and can help treat some sexual disorders like erectile dysfunction. It can also be useful in vaginal rejuvenation in females.
Is PRP Therapy Effective?
Individual healthcare practitioners have reported some impressive results in PRP therapy. Some early stage clinical studies have shown some promises. However, supporting scientific studies often only involve a small number of patients.
Generally, there is no "right way" to prepare a PRP treatment. Other factors may influence the effectiveness of the treatment. Despite having a limited scientific study backing it up, PRP therapy is a relatively low-risk therapy. This is because the plasma is extracted from the patient's blood.
Should You Consider PRP Injections?
PRP therapy has the ability to accelerate the healing process in several conditions. However, the lack of concrete evidence makes it difficult to decide if it's worth going for. Here are some things you may consider before making a decision:
· PRP involves minimal risks because the main therapy ingredient comes from your blood.
· It produces long-term pain relief and general health improvement.
· There are unique benefits offered for ligament conditions.
· PRP therapy is one of the best choices if you're looking for speedy healing.
· It is a good aesthetic procedure and can serve as an adjuvant for laser therapy.
Now, if you've decided to go for PRP injections, there are some important points to note.
· Check your insurance plan's details to ensure that the PRP injections are covered by your health insurance.
· It would help if you stopped taking some medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin because they thin your blood.
· You also need to suspend the use of some vitamins or supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids.
· It would help if you ate some food before the procedure because it involves drawing your blood. That way, you can avoid lightheaded feelings after the injections.
· Do not wash the treated area for up to 48 hours.
What is the Recovery Time for PRP Injections?
The recovery time for platelet-rich plasma injections often depends on the type of treatment. For example, the physician will require you to rest the affected area for treatments following an injury. However, patients can continue their daily activities after most other PRP therapies. The general recovery time is one or two days of rest. For some injuries, it may require up to two weeks with physical therapy.
How Long Does It Take Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections to Work?
The effects of PRP therapy may not be immediately after taking the injections because it promotes healing and tissue growth. The therapy does not relieve symptoms in the same way drugs or surgery do. Instead, it promotes the natural regenerative process.
This process often takes weeks to months before it completes. All of these depend on individual body makeup and the nature of the injury. For example, if you take PRP injections for hair growth, you'll only begin to observe more hair growing after some weeks or months.
The effects of the injection for joint, bone, or muscle injuries may be noticed after three months with complete healing in about six to nine months. You may need to get another injection if you don't notice significant improvements in pain or mobility. The effects of the therapy become permanent when the healing process is complete.
Possible Side Effects and Possible Complications of PRP Therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves the use of the patient’s own blood, making it relatively safe and almost free from side effects. However, patients can experience some injection site reactions, which are often temporary.
There is also the tendency for local site reactions. Such reactions include nerve injury and tissue damage. Some local pains may also occur from the injection itself. As with other treatments involving injections, there's a little risk of infection as well.
Other side effects may include bleeding, nausea, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. However, these side effects occur very rarely because we handle our therapy professionally.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is receiving massive popularity among health practitioners. It is a promising therapy for hair loss, aesthetics, and tissue damage. Furthermore, the therapy involves the use of your blood, making it safe and relatively free of adverse effects.