What is 'platelet rich plasma' and how is it used?

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Platelet rich plasma, or PRP, has two general purposes. It is used to rejuvenate the skin and also for stimulation of new hair growth for the scalp.

Why PRP? Blood plasma contains high concentrations of platelet and stem cells, and most growth factors are found in the platelets. The various growth factors help human tissues heal, increase new capillaries and their blood flow, grow new cells, collagen, elastin, and much more.

The goal is to concentrate your platelets, thus growth factors, to a much higher level than is normally found in one's plasma for a more effective treatment of environmental skin damage and for new hair growth on one's scalp.

PRP is obtained by drawing a small amount of blood from your arm into a sterile vacuum tube. This sample is centrifuged to separate your plasma containing platelets from your red and white blood cells, which are discarded. The plasma is then further filtered through a special tube. This process, which takes about 15 minutes, also concentrates the PRP.

PRP is used for skin rejuvenation of the skin by micro-needling or injections, which supercharges the benefits of PRP directly into the areas to be treated. Using microneedles drives the PRP into the dermis and also creates columns allowing the growth factors to penetrate more deeply.

Used in the face, the benefits are: reduced under-eye puffiness, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes, as well as over the entire facial skin areas.

Unfortunately, the incidence of hair loss is quite prevalent in both men and women, and it's appreciated by neither gender. But in women, it is an even less welcomed condition.

One of the most effective non-surgical methods to regenerate hair growth is to have the PRP injected into the scalp in the areas of thinning hair. This both reduces hair loss and initiates new hair growth.

For several years, various forms of PRP have been tried, and many specialists believe the most effective results are PRP combined with fibrin matrix, which is more effective than PRP alone. Fibrin matrix essentially makes the PRP activity a sustained release form and, therefore, longer acting.

The benefits are that the treatments are about once a year, which is much less frequently than usual. Fibrin matrix appears to be the new generation PRP.

PRP into the scalp is also used in combination with hair transplantation. The hair follicles that are transplanted will survive for decades, so PRP is not needed for these follicles.

It's the existing hair in the thinning areas that need the PRP to prevent further hair loss. PRP combined with hair transplantation can result in dense youthful looking hair for decades into the future.

E. Ronald Finger, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon with offices in Savannah and Bluffton. fingerandassociates.com

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