Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is fast becoming one of the more popular alternative treatments for chronic arthritis pain and musculoskeletal injuries. The more people learn about PRP, the more they are willing to give it a try before electing to undergo steroid injections or surgery.
It is interesting to note that PRP therapy is not new. According to Utah-based Apex Biologix, it has been around for decades. It has only recently been discovered by the American public thanks to a number of high-profile stories involving athletes and their miraculous recoveries from injury. A mounting body of clinical data is also increasing worldwide knowledge and acceptance of PRP therapy.
Here are five things patients should know about PRP therapy before choosing it for themselves:
1. How the Procedure Works
Knowing how the actual PRP procedure works can be quite comforting to uneasy patients. PRP therapy starts with a doctor-patient consultation to determine whether the therapy is appropriate or not. If it is, an appointment for actual treatment is scheduled.
Treatment begins with a simple blood draw. The drawn blood is processed in a specialized centrifuge in order to concentrate platelets and their associated growth factors. The resulting material is then injected into the site of injury or disease. Many doctors use imaging equipment to determine the best injection sites. The process takes between one and two hours.
2. PRP Therapy Is Safe
As PRP material is autologous – which is to say that patients donate their own blood – the therapy itself is safe. There is no risk of rejection or complication. Furthermore, PRP therapy is considered minimally invasive. It is invasive only to the extent that needles are used for both the blood draw and the injection. Patients have no need to worry about safety as long as their doctors are following established FDA rules.
3. PRP Therapy Is Approved
Despite what many people believe, PRP therapy as a treatment for musculoskeletal injuries and degenerative diseases is already approved. FDA regulations clearly stipulate that autologous PRP material can be used in musculoskeletal applications as long as it is minimally manipulated. This should give comfort to patients who would otherwise believe that PRP therapy is a rogue treatment bordering on quackery.
4. Insurance Doesn’t Cover It
As a general rule, health insurance only covers PRP injections when ordered by a surgeon to promote post-surgical healing. Insurance companies do not cover PRP injections for osteoarthritis, sports injuries, etc. Therefore, patients must pay for the treatments out-of-pocket.
The average cost for a single treatment is currently between $800 and $1,000. While patient responses vary, between one and three treatments are usually enough to produce positive results.
5. Application Is Important
PRP therapy is not something that can be administered haphazardly if positive results are expected. In other words, application is important. Doctors need to be trained in the proper way to process autologous PRP material. They need to be trained in choosing the right injection sites and determining dosage.
Patients thinking about undergoing PRP injections would be wise to look around for doctors with extensive experience. The more training and experience a doctor has, the more likely he or she will apply PRP therapy in the most efficacious way. Doctors without proper training should be avoided.
PRP therapy is gradually proving itself to be an excellent option for musculoskeletal injuries and disease. Patients no longer have to settle for steroid injections, long-term pain medication, or invasive surgeries. But before undergoing treatment, patients should take the time to educate themselves about PRP therapy and regenerative medicine in general. Remember, knowledge is power.