Platelet-rich plasma therapy is gaining prominence in the medical and cosmetic medicine fields for treating tendon injuries, pain and inflammation, as well as hair loss and skin aging.
It is performed by a provider who draws a small amount of blood from the patient’s arm (usually less than 2 ounces) and places the fluid into a centrifugal machine. The spinning sorts the fluid’s contents into several substances, one of which contains plasma, the liquid component of blood, and platelets.
Platelets are cells that secrete molecules known as “protein growth factors” that encourage blood clots, healing and cell growth, and are concentrated in the plasma at a higher-than-normal level.
This byproduct, called platelet-rich plasma or PRP, is then injected back into the patient in the area that’s being treated. This could be near a torn tendon, an injured rotator cuff, under the scalp to stimulate hair growth or under the skin around the cheeks, jaw and other areas that might have wrinkles or sagging skin. The platelets then break down and release the growth factors believed to promote healing and cell growth that leads to recovery.
Some research has found medical injections are effective in speeding up the healing of injured tissue, knee pain and rotator cuff injuries. Some doctors use PRP to treat people suffering from arthritis. Large, long-range studies have been difficult to conduct or verify due to lack of standardization in the field.
In cosmetic procedures the platelet-rich plasma often is injected either by itself or with other facial fillers to stimulate collagen production around hair follicles and under the epidermis. It can also be applied to the skin with laser resurfacing.
With hair growth, treatment has brought positive results for patients with alopecia (male or female pattern baldness), though this can require several sessions and may need to be repeated to maintain the results.
Facial injections under the skin can help plump the skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, the appearance of deep tear troughs and smile lines.
Platelet-rich plasma injections are safe for most people, but should not be performed for patients with low platelet counts, anemia, cancer or active infections.