Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
Dealing with chronic pain from osteoarthritis or a tendon, ligament, or muscle injury can disrupt your life and keep you from the activities you love.
That’s why University of Iowa Health Care sports medicine physicians are leading the way in providing the latest, most innovative therapies available.
This includes specialized training in administering platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a nonsurgical regenerative medicine treatment that uses your body’s own cells to treat injuries and function-related issues with arthritis.
Using a high concentration of your own healing blood cells, PRP treatment helps to jump-start the healing process, providing relief and better management of your symptoms.
What is platelet-rich plasma and how does it work?
Platelet-rich plasma treatment typically takes less than an hour and is performed at the UI Sports Medicine Clinic. The process begins by drawing blood and spinning it in a machine—a process known as centrifugation—and collecting a high concentration of platelets.
Platelets are particles in blood that help form clots to stop bleeding. They also hold healing, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. Because platelets have growth factors and signaling molecules that normally start the healing cycle in the body, they can be used to jump-start the healing process, helping to alleviate symptoms and improve function.
Once collected, these platelets are then injected directly into the affected area under ultrasound guidance—an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create real-time images inside the body. Unlike many medical facilities, UI Health Care uses this ultrasound imaging to help place the injection exactly where it's intended, providing better outcomes.
As an evidence-based regenerative medicine program, our PRP treatment is performed in a careful, structured, regimented, and research-driven manner. As a patient who gets a PRP procedure, you may be enrolled in one of our research studies to track your outcomes or adverse events or adjust treatment as needed. You will also be provided with rehabilitation guidelines to maximize your outcome.
What to expect after a platelet-rich plasma injection
For the first two weeks after the procedure, you will be advised to rest. After that, you will start your structured physical therapy and can start doing low-impact exercise. In about six weeks, you can start reincorporating higher-impact activities.
Outcomes are going to be individualized based on multiple factors, such as the location and extent of the injury. However, you should be aware that it's going to be a slow, gradual healing process as opposed to immediate improvement.
Patients often begin to notice improvement in 4-6 weeks, however, it may take up to three months for some.
Who is eligible for a platelet-rich plasma injection?
The first step in determining your eligibility for platelet-rich plasma is to get a proper diagnosis from your provider. Common diagnoses for PRP patients include:
Acute and chronic tendon, ligament, muscle, nerve, and/or joint injuries
You will then consult with a UI Health Care sports medicine physician to discuss your medical history and complete a full physical evaluation before they present your treatment options.
Note, however, that having one of these diagnoses does not necessarily mean you are a good candidate for PRP. Most people with injuries should start with standard-of-care treatments—otherwise known as conservative care—to address any underlying issues and improve physical function. This may involve things like:
Oral medications (i.e., ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc)
If you’ve tried these conservative care methods and are still experiencing symptoms after three months, platelet-rich plasma might be a good next progression in treatment.
Platelet-rich plasma injection as an alternative to surgery
Surgical treatment for these types of conditions is also an option for people who do not respond to conservative care techniques, but surgery may not be as successful or as reliable as PRP.
PRP is also less risky and less invasive than surgery. The recovery is significantly faster, and the effectiveness may be at least equal to surgery for many indications.