ORLANDO – Platelet-rich plasma offers much for patients and dermatologists: It’s low-risk, has a low cost of entry, and usefully augments other medications and procedures for androgenetic alopecia and facial rejuvenation.
But there’s work to be done in standardizing its use and really understanding where, when, and for whom platelet-rich plasma (PRP) will be best used, said Dierdre Hooper, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New Orleans.
As far back as the 1970s, PRP was used as a transfusion product, with use expanding during the following decade. “It’s really the ‘everywhere’ product,’” said Dr. Hooper, speaking at the Aesthetic, Surgical, and Clinical Dermatology Conference (ODAC).
Over the course of the past four decades, PRP has been explored for musculoskeletal healing, in gynecology, urology, cardiac surgery, ophthalmology, and for plastic surgery. “Initial skepticism has given way as some evidence is building,” said Dr. Hooper.
PRP, considered a biologic product, is produced by centrifuging a donor venipuncture. Among the pros of using PRP in a clinical practice, said Dr. Hooper, is the fact that numerous clinical studies do show benefit. The risk is low, as is the cost, and downtime is brief. All of these contribute to attractiveness to patients, who also like the idea of an all-natural product with an autologous source.
But consensus is lacking about some key aspects of utilization, including the best mode of preparation and optimal treatment schedule. Outcomes can be unpredictable, making it tough to say how cost-effective the regimen will be for a particular patient. “The ‘cons’ just come down to no consensus,” said Dr. Hooper.
Some of the basic science makes a compelling case for PRP: Activated platelets have secretory granules. These modify the pericellular milieu through release of a variety of growth factors by secretory granules. “We all were taught back in the day that platelets adhere to promote clotting, but they do a lot more than that – when the platelet is activated, it releases growth factors,” said Dr. Hooper. “Big picture? Think: This is how we heal.”
After blood collection, the sample is centrifuged. The goal of centrifuging is to achieve a platelet concentration of 1 to 1.5 million platelets per mL, or four to six times the platelet concentration seen in whole blood. In practice, there are variations in the mode of preparation, and in an individual’s platelet level at the time of venipuncture, said Dr. Hooper, so it’s hard to know what the platelet “dose” is from PRP.
After centrifuging, the sample will be stratified into a bottom portion, consisting primarily of red blood cells, a middle portion that’s the PRP, and a top portion that is platelet-poor plasma. Dr. Hooper draws up and saves the platelet- poor plasma as well, since it probably also contains some growth factors. She’ll save that for application or injection after a PRP treatment for some patients.