What are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections for the hands, wrists and elbows?

Before doctors try surgery to fix pain in your hands, wrists and elbows, they like to make sure they've tried other options first. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are non-surgical treatments that help promote healing.

Platelets are cells in your blood. They make it clot when you get a cut. They also contain proteins and growth factors that help the cut heal. PRP injections contain plasma that has up to 10 times more platelets than normal blood plasma, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

If you're suffering from an injury to the ligaments or tendons in your hands, wrists or elbows, a PRP injection can speed up the healing process. Your doctor may use a PRP injection with surgery to help you recover faster.

What to expect from a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in the hand, wrist or elbow

PRP injections are quick procedures. At your appointment, your doctor will draw a vial of blood from your uninjured arm. Healthcare providers process the blood through a device known as a centrifuge. It separates the different parts of your blood into layers.

The doctor withdraws the platelet-rich portion of blood and combines it the remaining portion of blood. They use an ultrasound to see inside your joint. This helps them guide the needle to the right place before injecting the platelets into the injury.

You won't feel immediate relief after the injection. You'll probably feel some soreness in the joint for the first few days. Use a cold compress on the joint for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. This can help reduce pain. Your doctor may also give you a brace or sling to wear to limit movement of your arm. The success rate for a PRP injection is 80%, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Common hand, wrist or elbow conditions requiring a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection

PRP injections treat a variety of conditions that cause pain in your hands, wrists and elbows. These include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

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