Spend an hour or two researching the effectiveness of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and you are likely to come away at least somewhat confused. PRP therapy seems to work well for some, but not others. How could this be? Furthermore, how can a patient know whether to try PRP with so much conflicting information?
The answer to the second question is pretty straightforward: speak with a doctor who has experience treating people with PRP therapy. As for the first question, there are lots of different answers. Some of them are explained below. As you read them, remember that there is no medical therapy currently on the market that works 100% of the time. Some work better than others, but there are never any guarantees with medicine.
Patients Respond Differently
One of the first things doctors learn when they undergo PRP training at the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute is to not expect perfect results every time. They are reminded of something they learned way back in the earliest days of medical school: patients respond differently. John’s body may respond positively to PRP injections while Mary’s body does not respond at all. There is no possible way to know how any one patient will respond.
This truth is evident throughout medicine. Not all patients who receive steroid injections have a positive experience. Not every patient who undergoes joint replacement surgery experiences 100% pain relief in the months and years that follow.
PRP Therapy Is Not Always Appropriate
There are times when PRP therapy is administered even though it is not appropriate. For example, it is generally understood that PRP therapy is best as a treatment for chronic conditions. Very rarely is it appropriate for an acute condition. And yet, emergency room doctors may offer PRP injections for things like sprained ankles and pulled muscles. Being an acute injury, a better way to treat a sprained ankle is rest and ice packs. PRP injections are not going to increase the rate of healing.
Use of Certain Medications
The strength of platelet-rich plasma as a therapeutic treatment are the growth factors it contains. These growth factors are known to promote healing and address chronic pain. Unfortunately, certain medications either inhibit the usefulness of growth factors or kill them all together. Steroids, anesthetics, and pain relievers are all problematic.
PRP therapy is intended as a stand-alone therapy separate from medications. So if a doctor provides PRP injections and then sends the patient home with a prescription for pain medication, he or she might be undoing all the benefits of the injections. The pain medication could inhibit or kill the same growth factors that are supposed to be helping the patient.
Administering PRP therapy is not as simple as drawing some blood, spinning it, and injecting it into the patient. Blood has to be processed in a certain way in order to maximize platelets and growth factors. Doctors also have to take great care in terms of dosage. If either preparation or dosage is off, the injections may not work.
What many doctors new to PRP therapy do not know is that standards in dosage are not appropriate. Standards in preparation are, but dosage is unique to each patient. Doctors have to assess patient need, overall health, and other factors to determine the concentration of platelets in each injection and the total number of injections needed.
There are valid reasons why PRP therapy doesn’t work for every patient. Like any other medical treatment, PRP works well for some but not for others. That in no way negates its general efficacy.