What Is Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP)?
Although blood is mainly a liquid (called plasma), it also contains small solid components (red
cells, white cells, and platelets.) The platelets are best known for their importance in clotting
blood. However, platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very
important in the healing of injuries.
PRP is plasma with many more platelets than what is typically found in blood. The
concentration of platelets — and, thereby, the concentration of growth factors — can be 5 to 10
times greater (or richer) than usual.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood must first be drawn from a patient. The platelets are
separated from other blood cells and their concentration is increased during a process called
centrifugation. Then the increased concentration of platelets is combined with the remaining
How Does PRP Work?
Although it is not exactly clear how PRP works, laboratory studies have shown that the increased
concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process. To speed
healing, the injury site is treated with the PRP preparation.
PRP can be carefully injected into the injured area. For example, in Achilles tendonitis, a
condition commonly seen in runners and tennis players, the heel cord can become swollen,
inflamed, and painful. A mixture of PRP and local anesthetic can be injected directly into this
inflamed tissue. Afterwards, the pain at the area of injection may actually increase for the first
week or two, and it may be several weeks before the patient feels a beneficial effect.
What Conditions are Treated with PRP? Is It Effective?
According to the research studies currently reported, PRP is most effective in the treatment of
chronic tendon injuries - such as chronic Achilles tendonitis is promising. Much of the publicity
PRP therapy has received has been about the treatment of acute sports injuries, such as
ligament and muscle injuries. PRP has been used to treat professional athletes with common
In our practice we commonly use PRP in the treatment of:
Ankle ligament injuries
The risks associated with PRP are minimal: There may be increased pain at the injection site,
but the incidence of other problems — infection, tissue damage, nerve injuries — appears to be
no different from that associated with cortisone injections.