We are beginning a three-part series discussing advancements in the treatment and recovery for personal injury victims like those with auto accident injuries. The three treatments to be discussed in this series are in various phases of development, including clinical trials, awaiting FDA approval, usage as a “last resort,” or still emerging as a viable alternative among medical professionals and health insurers.
The first treatment to be discussed in this series is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections. PRP injections are demonstrating effectiveness for injuries related to the spine, knee, ankle and other areas. Platelets are found in blood and contain many natural growth factors that promote healing. The process involves injecting a high concentration of platelets taken from the patient's own blood to stimulate the regeneration of tissue to help the patient recover faster. Below is a breakdown of what you should know about PRP.
The PRP Process
Blood drawn from the patient is mixed with an anticoagulant (blood thinner). A device is used to centrifuge (separate) the blood platelets, creating a concentrated liquid to be injected near the site of the injury. To accurately identify the best point of injection, an ultrasound or fluoroscopy X-ray unit is used. A local anesthetic is provided to dull any pain while several injections are made in the injury region.
What to Expect: Post-Injection
Aches and pains may exist for a few days. For pain management, ibuprofen or naproxen must be avoided for a period of five days because they may negate the effectiveness of the PRP. Your doctor may have you limit your activity for a period of time, but this varies case-to-case. Many individuals respond very well to the initial treatment while others may require one or two more treatments before the benefits materialize.
PRP Clinical Study: Neck & Back Disc Herniation
A spinal disc herniation (HNP) is a common spinal condition impacting regions such as the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) areas. HNP may result from traumatic impacts, like car accidents, or be a condition that degenerates over time. This study was conducted by the Comprehensive Spine Center in Tamarac, Florida, to determine the safety and efficacy of PRP treatment. Overall, 87% of participants achieved positive results. Roughly 81% of those with cervical conditions and 77% of those with lumbar problems saw improvement in their HNP.
PRP Clinical Study: Degenerated Spinal Disc Disease
The results of a study that tested the effectiveness of PRP injections were reported by Dr. Gregory Lutz, a physiatrist, at the Interventional Orthopedics Conference in Broomfield, Colorado. A pool of 49 individuals with spinal disc disease received treatment. Over a two-year period, 60% of patients realized substantial reductions in pain and increased functional ability. Lutz says usage of a person's own cells for patient injuries is creating a positive shift in the future of orthopedic care. Beneficiaries may include those who otherwise would consider riskier options like spinal fusion or ongoing drug therapy.
PRP Clinical Study: Spinal Cord Nerve Regeneration
A group from the Mashhad University School of Medicine completed a study to gauge PRP effectiveness for spinal cord injuries using a rat model. Eighteen animals were involved and PRP showed the ability to aid recovery by regenerating central nerves. Treatment was shown to trigger increases in the number of axons, which are groups of fibers that compose nerves and transmit impulses. In many cases, notable improvements in motor function were apparent from a single injection within 24 hours.
Background & Historical Usage
PRP has safely demonstrated effectiveness in Europe for over 10 years and usage is increasing in the U.S. Researchers know considerable benefits could be derived from PRP, and with advancements in technology, the treatment is now a more practical option. Highly adverse outcomes have not been reported.
Potentially Treatable Conditions
Experimental usage has shown positive results for some of the following injuries:
- Spinal conditions
- Various musculoskeletal problems including tendonitis
- Knee conditions including osteoarthritis and injuries to the ACL and patellar tendon
- Hip Bursitis
- Rotator cuff damage
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendon injuries
- As a complementary treatment for various types of surgery
Insurance Coverage & Costs
Most commercial health insurers have yet to make this experimental treatment available for provider reimbursement. Clinics nationwide promote the service on a fee-for-service basis. If positive outcomes continue, we may see some greater affordability, as fees vary widely from $800 to $2,000 per injection.
If you have been in an accident or otherwise suffered an injury that could respond positively to PRP treatment, speak to your physician about it. If you are filing a claim or lawsuit related to the injury, also speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer who knows about these kinds of treatments and who is in a better position to discuss with you the availability of compensation when filing a claim.