Plasma can be extracted from a patient’s blood and injected into an area of tendonitis, muscle injury, or ligament strain. The concentrated plasma contains a variety of growth factors including Platelet Derived Growth Factor (PDGF) and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) that have been shown in laboratory studies to enhance tissue healing and increase microciruclation to the involved area. PRP injections have been proposed as a means of stimulating healing for a variety of foot and ankle conditions including Achilles tendonitis, Achilles tendon ruptures, insertional Achilles tendonitis,peroneal tendonitis, recalcitrant plantar fasciitis, and calf muscle tears.
In theory this treatment makes sense. However, to date no clinical studies have been performed that demonstrate a clear advantage of PRP injections over the bodies normal healing response.
How is PRP harvested?
Plasma Rich Protein is generated by taking a vial of a patient’s blood and spinning it in a centrifuge. This separates the blood into layers based on the density of elements in the blood. The layers include: the red blood cells (heaviest layer); the “Buffy Coat” containing the plasma rich protein; and a plasma-poor layer (lightest layer). The plasma rich layer is isolated and then injected into the involved area under sterile conditions. If the injection is performed outside of the operating room it may be aided by ultrasound or fluroscopic x-rays to ensure that it is injected in the correct area.
Are there any potential complications associated with PRP injections?
Any invasive procedure can be associated with potential complications! However, the complication rate associated with PRP injections appears to be very low. The main potential complication is the chance of an infection at the site of the injection. Reaction to the blood products has not been a problem because the patients own blood products are used so no cross reaction would be expected. One problem is the cost. This procedure is still considered experimental by most insurance companies so patients often have to pay out of their own pockets. This can be expensive as the equipment needed to prepare the blood can be expensive.
Edited July 16th, 2014