Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Foot FAQ

Question:

I'm very excited because the orthopedic surgeon thinks she has a new treatment that might help my tennis elbow. It's some kind of injection of my own blood plasma into the painful area. I got the gist of how it works (some kind of growth) but could you explain it a little more for me? There wasn't time in the doctor's office to ask all my questions.

Answer:

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is also known as blood injection therapy. PRP refers to a sample of serum (blood) plasma taken from the patient being treated. The plasma is then injected into the symptomatic (painful or tender) area. How does it work? Platelet-rich plasma has as much as four times more than the normal amount of platelets. Platelets contain growth factors that act to promote tendon repair. These growth factors send signals to the body that increase blood flow to the area and transport cellular debris and waste from cellular metabolism away from the tissue. This treatment enhances the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It is used to improve healing and shorten recovery time from acute and chronic soft tissue injuries. It has been used for years after plastic surgery and surgery on the mouth, jaw, and neck. It seems to promote bone graft healing. Researchers have found a way to combine this substance with other chemicals to make it into a putty or gel that can be painted on a surgical site to speed up healing. Blood injection therapy of this type has been used for knee osteoarthritis, degenerative cartilage, spinal fusion, bone fractures that don’t heal, and poor wound healing. This treatment technique is fairly new in the sports medicine treatment of musculoskeletal problems like tennis elbow, but gaining popularity quickly. Researchers are still examining all the evidence around the use of this treatment technique. It seems to work best for areas of the upper extremity (hand, wrist, elbow). These are non load bearing tendons. Tennis elbow seems to burn itself out after a while and for this reason is considered "self-limiting." But Achilles tendon problems in the foot and ankle don't seem to respond quite as well. The poorer results may be linked with increased load and shear forces. More studies are underway to understand the most effective use for platelet-rich plasma treatments. Good luck with your treatment! Suzan de Jonge, MD, et al. One-Year Follow-Up of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment in Chronic Achilles Tendinopathy. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. August 2011. Vol. 39. No. 8. Pp. 1623-1629.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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