The benefits, drawbacks of pain-relieving PRP therapy

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Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a ground-breaking pain-relieving treatment, but is it safe?

Sharon Smith’s shoulder pain started when she was 19 years old.

“The shoulder would just get worse and worse and worse, and it got to the point where it was waking me up at night,” she said. “It just would throb and I’d have to stick pillows under there. It was horrible.”

“The problem is when you put cortisone in, you’re not only shutting down the swelling, but you’re also turning off a lot of those good molecules, those good things that are going on to get the healing process going,” said Dr. Dwight Lin, Queen’s Medical Center.

Smith turned to PRP therapy which relieves pain without the risks of surgery. The procedure takes a couple of hours and is performed in a medical office.

Your blood is made up of 93 percent red blood cells, six percent white blood cells, and one percent platelets and plasma. Platelets are best known for blood-clotting to stop bleeding, but they also serve a different purpose. Human platelets are a critical component in injury healing.

Lin uses ultrasound technology to inject the patient’s platelets into or near the point of injury.

“Allowing us a way to look into that shoulder without radiation, without an expensive MRI,” Lin explained. “In the office, we can see where the medications are being delivered. We can see the blood vessels to avoid.”

Lin says because your own blood is used, risk of infections and allergic reactions are much lower.

PRP is not covered by insurance. Lin says most of procedures range between $700 and $1,200 per injection. The number of injections needed vary on each patient’s condition.

“If you’re looking at clinics typically on the mainland that are doing this kind of thing, prices are ranging from $1,200 to $5,000 depending which facility you’re going to,” Lin said.

The benefits of PRP are growing, but more research still needs to be done.

“Part of it is going to be driven by what the evidence shows and part of it is going to be driven by what we can do as physicians in the U.S.,” Lin said.

“It’s totally life-changing, totally, like so much happier,” Smith said. “I’m like what the heck, let’s do the rest of my body too.”

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