PRP – Platelet Rich Plasma
You may have heard of PRP treatments, PRP skin rejuvenation or PRP facelifts. PRP stands for platelet rich plasma, and PRP treatments refer to injections of platelet rich plasma to areas needing rejuvenation. PRP is a new form of regenerative treatment that utilises platelets found in our own blood.
Platelet rich plasma used in skin rejuvenation (or for any other purpose) is a thick liquid separated from a sample of drawn blood. When a tube full of blood is spun in a centrifuge, the thick platelet-rich fraction—the PRP—drops to the bottom. The PRP is then injected into the skin or area needing treatment.
Because the PRP comes from each person’s own blood and is subjected to only minimal processing before being re-injected, PRP treatments are considered safe. However, the same cannot necessarily be said if the plasma is processed to any significant degree or has been stored for a long period of time.
PRP is rich in growth factors that speed up healing. One of the key functions of the platelets in our blood is to repair cuts, tears or wounds on the skin, blocking further blood loss. Any wound to the skin causes a cascade of biological processes aimed at facilitating healing. Some of these are also beneficial for stimulating skin rejuvenation. Although many aspects of this process are not completely understood, it is known that growth factors found on the surface of platelets stimulate collagen production in the skin. This is one of the properties of PRP that is useful for skin rejuvenation treatments.
PRP has been used in facial rejuvenation since 2006 and much longer for other medical purposes. PRP has been tested and used for bone, muscle and wound healing, and in facial plastic surgery, among other applications. PubMed.gov, of the US National Library of Medicine yields over 6,000 published research papers on the qualities and uses of platelet rich plasma. While many studies have found benefits in using PRP, a few have failed to find a significant improvement.
Facial rejuvenation using PRP is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the US right now. In the US, the procedure of injecting platelet rich plasma for facial rejuvenation is referred to as the “vampire facelift”.
Reasons for choosing to have a PRP treatmentClick to collapse
Many people find the idea of skin rejuvenation using their own platelet rich plasma much more attractive than resorting to surgery or to the injection of substances derived from other sources, which may be perceived as artificial.
There is evidence that PRP rejuvenation can improve the following:
- Wrinkles around the eyes, cheeks and mid face area.
- The appearance of the neck and the jawline.
- The appearance of the chest and décolletage.
- Wrinkles on the arms and back of the hands.
- Loss of hair on the head.
PRP treatments, just like other branches of regenerative medicine, are relatively new. A search on Clinicaltrials.gov shows that a number of clinical trials in progress using PRP should further our knowledge of the plasma over the coming years.
Things to consider once you’ve decided to have a PRP treatmentClick to expand
The key things you need to consider are the efficacy and safety of the procedure, the brand under which the procedure is performed and the practitioner who will be providing you with treatment.
PRP effectiveness and combinations with other treatments
Despite thousands of peer reviewed research papers published on various aspects of PRP or the platelet rich fibrin matrix (PRFM), which contains a more condensed version of platelets and growth factors, only a handful of studies have tested their efficacy for use in skin rejuvenation and wrinkle treatments.
In our research we found a few studies that used PRP or PRFM, either on their own or in combination with other treatments, which have produced encouraging results.
One such study, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in March 2010, evaluated how a single injection of autologous platelet-rich fibrin matrix (PRFM) could correct deep nasolabial folds. The study, conducted on 15 adults at a single location—the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary in New York—concluded, “PRFM can provide significant long-term diminution of deep nasolabial folds without the use of foreign materials. PRFM holds significant potential for stimulated dermal augmentation.”
A 2012 study, considering the effects of PRP combined with fractional laser therapy, concluded, “PRP with fractional laser treatment is a good combination therapy for skin rejuvenation.”
PRP and PRFM treatments, despite only limited investigation, are being offered by thousands of doctors throughout the world.
Brand names of PRP treatments
There are different PRP treatments for skin rejuvenation available in Australia; often based on the type of equipment used for separating the PRP from the blood samples.
- Regen PRP treatments use kits by Regen Lab, an independent biotech company from Switzerland using a patented technology for producing autologous platelet rich plasma and other cell concentrates. Their products are used in various medical disciplines including wound care, sports medicine (orthopaedics), ophthalmology, dental care, and of course, medical aesthetics (for skin rejuvenation). Australasian Medical & Scientific Ltd represents and distributes Regen in Australia.
- Selphyl System has been approved as a device to be used for the safe and rapid preparation of autologous platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) from a small sample of blood at the patient point of care. Device Technologies represents and distributes Selphyl in Australia.
Other companies may be offering PRP treatments under other brand names. It does not, in fact, require a lot of technology to separate PRP from a blood sample; any lab can produce PRP with a centrifuge. The secret of success and safety lies in how the PRP is processed and injected, and what should be added to it to make it effective.
When choosing a provider, look at what proof of effectiveness is being offered by way of clinical trials.
Doctor qualifications and experience
Often the success of injectable treatments depends to a large degree on the competence of the injector. With other injectables, the quality or safety of the substance being injected matters as well. Since PRP injections use a version of your own blood, the process of extraction and injection is extremely important. The treatment should also be performed in sanitary conditions and with your safety and quality of outcome in mind.
What to expectClick to expand
Your treatment session will probably take between 45 minutes and one hour.
The first step is to draw blood from your arm and process it to obtain PRP. For processing, your practitioner will be using one of the machines approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). There are also PRP kits available on the market to help separate PRP from blood. Your skin will then be cleansed and prepared for treatment.
When the PRP is ready, it will be injected just beneath the epidermis of the area needing treatment. It is not a very painful process, but some practitioners use numbing creams (local anesthetics) or nerve blocks in order to minimise discomfort.
PRP treatments are not considered permanent solutions, but they can help improve skin texture and tone, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. You may not notice immediate results, but within three weeks or so after treatment, your skin in the treated area will appear fuller than the rest of the skin. You may also continue to notice improvements over a period of time. The collagen regeneration process can take as long as three months.
Possible risks and complicationsClick to expand
As with any treatment or procedure there are risks involved in PRP treatments. Make sure you are familiar with the list of complications that could arise as a result of any procedure. The best way to reduce risk is to find a fully qualified practitioner with formal training with PRP who has performed the treatment many times.
Expect some degree of swelling, bruising and discolouration around the injected area. This will subside after a few days. People sometimes experience sensations of itching or tenderness in the treatment zone, but this too will soon subside. A bruise may remain at the needle site for two to three days.
Because a lot about the processes involved is still unknown, regenerative therapies, including PRP treatments, are constantly evolving. Your best chance of good results depends on determining proof of effectiveness and choosing a reputable practitioner with experience in the procedures.
Costs involvedClick to expand
It is difficult to specify a price or price range, because different processes have different price tags. Costs also vary due to the area needing treatment. However, a rough indication of cost would be between $500 and $1200 (AUD).
An initial consultation would help determine what costs you may incur.
You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined treatments at the same time.
This information is correct as of 2013.