How Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Work?

Knees are often affected by gradual cartilage deterioration, which results in osteoarthritis, with the bones grinding against each other and leading to pain, inflammation, and joint swelling. Additionally, strenuous activities like high-impact sports can lead to knee ligament injuries that typically require extensive recovery.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections represent a novel alternative treatment aiming to promote cell growth and improve healing using the body's resources. Although the FDA hasn't extensively approved PRP treatment, athletes and other patients have used this method to heal injuries faster.

Platelets are the smallest blood cells with a vital role in clotting and tissue regrowth. Plasma is the liquid component of blood that contains multiple proteins or "factors" with regenerative qualities. Medical specialists consider that PRP injections in injured tissues can stimulate new cell development and alleviate pain, and due to the concentrated growth factors may speed up the healing process.  

A sample of the patient's blood is taken and placed in a centrifuge that rapidly spins around, separating the blood into its constituent components. The plasma is collected separately and concentrated for treating arthritic conditions or soft tissue injuries, such as ACL tears. Ultrasounds may be used to identify the exact area for injection.

PRP injections' positive effects can last up to 12-18 months. Certain risks that are common for all injections include infection and flaring pain; however, they are considered rare. To increase the efficiency of PRP injections, patients should:

  • Drink 1-1.5 liters of water (or around 6 glasses) to ensure proper hydration before receiving the injection
  • Avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin which affect platelets for 10 days before treatment and a few weeks after.
  • Avoid exercising or using the knee for a week after PRP injections; rest time may vary depending on the injury.