Platelets are critical in healing the body. Made within bone marrow, platelets help create clots that form scabs over wounds and ward off outside bacteria. In recent years, science has used this principle to develop injections with high concentrations of platelets to treat a variety of conditions from arthritic pain to hair loss.
This concentration is called Platelet-Rich Plasma, or simply, PRP.
What is PRP?
While PRP earned its abbreviation in 1998, some of the earliest studies done with the concentrate reach as far back as the 1970s.
The Making of PRP
To begin, a patient’s blood is extracted. While the amount may vary, it most commonly does not exceed one pint. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge.
Next, the centrifuge spins the sample at high speeds, separating the different elements in the blood and allowing for platelets to be extracted for later use.
Injections are then created by infusing the patient’s plasma with a high concentration of blood platelets. This results in the concentration of platelets being five to ten times higher in PRP than in the original blood draw.
What does PRP treat?
While ongoing research and testing will likely identify more applications of PRP in the coming years, it is currently used in the following treatments:
- Osteoarthritic pain
- Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
- Achilles Tendonitis (Achilles heel)
- Ligament tears
As the main purpose of PRP is to reduce inflammation, those with arthritic pain or sports injuries are often those who have the greatest potential benefit most from treatment. Soft tissue and joint pain however, are not PRP’s only use.
Recently, there is a growing trend incorporating PRP in cosmetic medicine. Such treatments include using PRP to lessen the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, and even promoting hair regrowth for those with alopecia.
How Treatment Works
PRP is delivered via injection. To determine the best injection site for a patient’s needs, a practitioner may use ultrasound technology to aid them in the process.
From start to finish, treatment and recovery takes approximately two hours. As the procedure in non-invasive, patients are generally able to return to their activities soon after treatment has ended.
What Are the Risks?
PRP is a new and developing treatment. As such, U.S. PRP products are only loosely regulated by the FDA and do not follow a “traditional regulatory pathway” of studies required of many other products.
PRP is generally understood as a safe treatment as it utilizes the patient’s own blood, thus minimizing the risk of the body rejecting the infusion. However, as with any medical procedure, there is always a risk for complications such as soreness, discoloration, or infection.
Cost of PRP
PRP is a relatively new treatment that lacks the same, long-term, large-scale, studies of other treatment methods. As such, medical insurance providers are unlikely to cover treatment. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, this is true for a large majority of health insurance plans meaning patients must pay for costs out-of-pocket.
The costs of PRP therapy may vary based on some of the following factors:
- The medical professional’s area expertise
- The condition being treated
- The geographic area of the treatment
A recent report from Scientific American estimates the cost range for a single injection to be between $500 and $2,000.
Patient’s looking into treatment options should also note that prices tend to be higher in large metropolitan areas. ABC News 7 in San Francisco explained that PRP hair loss treatment ranges from $900 for a single treatment to $2,500 for a series of three. The Washington Post reported that injections into the knees cost a minimum of $500.
PRP at the Arizona Pain and Spine Institute
As an Arizona provider of PRP treatments, our team of medical professionals provides effective treatment for dozens of painful conditions. Our patients benefit from the latest innovations in technology and therapeutic techniques. We encourage you to contact our office today for an appointment at (480) 986-7246.