What Are PRP Injections?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves injecting the patient’s own plasma into damaged tissue to reduce inflammation and promote healing. In a fairly simple in-office procedure, the doctor will draw a small amount of the patient’s blood and run it through a special machine that separates the platelets from other blood cells. The plasma now has up to ten times more platelets than a normal blood sample. When the platelet-rich plasma is injected into damaged tissue, it prompts the body to begin healing itself and reduces swelling in the tissue. PRP injections are used to treat a variety of injuries but have also been found to be effective in some forms of osteoarthritis.
While the damage to cartilage caused by OA is not reversible, PRP injections can be effective in reducing pain and stiffness in damaged joints in many patients. It generally takes about a week for a patient to feel results, and the effects can last for at least six months. PRP injections can be used in any joint affected by OA but have proven most successful in treating OA of the knee.
PRP Injections Are Most Effective for Knee Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis to differentiate it from other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, that are caused by autoimmune disorders. OA is the most common form of arthritis and affects more than 30 million adults in the U.S., making it the leading cause of disability. The knee is the joint most often affected by OA. People with knee OA might experience the following symptoms:
- Pain in the knee when moving or sitting still
- Stiffness in the knee when first getting up
- Swelling in the knee
- Cracking or grinding noises when moving the knee
- Buckling of the knee joint when standing or walking
- Locking of the knee joint
These symptoms are a result of the breakdown of cartilage in the knee joint, which causes bones to rub together. When platelet-rich plasma is injected into the damaged cartilage of the knee, patients often experience less pain, reduced stiffness, and increased mobility. Used in combination with other forms of arthritis treatment, such as frequent rest and activity modification, PRP therapy can delay the need for more aggressive treatment for some time.
Delaying Knee Replacement Surgery
The only permanent “cure” for OA of the knee is a total knee replacement, but as a major surgical procedure, it can take months or even years to find the right time to have it done. A total knee replacement involves:
- Removing the damaged cartilage at the end of each leg bone and shaving down the bone surface to prepare for the implant
- Cementing titanium knee components onto each side of the joint, replacing the original joint
- Inserting a plastic spacer between the titanium components to create a smooth surface for easy movement
Replacing the entire knee joint removes the source of pain and stiffness for most patients. However, it will take time to recover from the surgery. Patients will be ordered to rest, walk with crutches, attend physical therapy, and introduce normal activity slowly.
Patients often have reasons to delay this invasive surgery, including work demands, family events, and other medical conditions. PRP therapy can buy many patients time by allowing them to live more comfortably until they are able to schedule knee replacement surgery.
Discuss PRP Injection Therapy With Our Team
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis, particularly in the knee, the skilled orthopedic surgeons at Northwest Extremity Specialists will evaluate your condition to see if PRP injection therapy might be right for you. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.