How Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Help Orthopedic Injuries?
Orthopedic injuries – the ones that involve the muscles, ligaments, tendons or bones of the body – can be extremely painful. More than that, they can take a while to recover from because healing takes longer in these areas. Some research indicates that these areas have a harder time healing because they do not have as much blood flow. Think of your knee or your shoulder; you don’t have as much tissue containing blood vessels in these areas, so getting the nutrients your body needs to heal can take longer.
One potential treatment for orthopedic injuries is platelet-rich plasma injections. While there is still a lot of research to be done, many preliminary studies show that these injections can speed up healing especially after orthopedic surgery.
What do platelets have to do with healing?
Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that help with clotting and are a major component of the cells that keep your body healthy. When blood vessels get damaged, platelets are sent to the injury to form clots and to stop bleeding or bruising. This is an automatic reaction that prevents a person from bleeding out, but it also triggers the body’s healing response. Platelets also have proteins, cytokines (immune system signalers) and all of the ingredients your body needs to rebuild injured cells.
After the platelets stop the clotting, they also get to work mending the cells around the injury. Think of your platelets as the first responders after a disaster; they start the work while they wait for backup. If you’ve had surgery for your orthopedic injury, platelet-rich plasma is especially helpful as cut tissues need more help clotting than just internal bruising or swelling.
Should you use platelet-rich injections for your orthopedic injury?
Depending on your orthopedic surgeon, platelet-rich injections may be an option to expedite healing. These injections are made with your own plasma, which doctors can easily harvest with a plasma draw (much like a blood draw). Then, they concentrate your plasma into an injection and inject it into the tissues around your injury.
While there are no definitive research studies highlighting how effective platelet-rich plasma is for everyone, your specific injury may benefit. There is also research showing that platelet-rich plasma may be more effective after surgery rather than just when an injury occurs. This is probably because platelets help clotting, and surgery cuts through many layers of tissues to access the injured bone, muscle, ligament or tendon.
It’s important for your orthopedic doctor or surgeon to highlight the benefits of these injections so you can decide for yourself if you’d like to use them. Essentially, platelet-rich plasma will, in theory, help your body recover faster, but there are no guarantees that your body will respond actively to harvested plasma.
Other uses for platelet-rich plasma
Many studies are being done on the preventative use of platelet-rich plasma injections to treat osteoarthritis, scar tissue from previous injuries, and more. As more research is done, doctors and surgeons will be better able to decide when these injections are ideal for their patients.