There has been a lot of buzz about PRP or platelet-rich plasma treatment in recent months. The non-invasive procedure, in which the patient’s own blood is concentrated and injected back into the body, has received media attention due to its use in both treating sports injuries in professional athletes and in the skin rejuvenation treatment known as the Vampire Facial.
PRP has several applications in cosmetic, orthopedic and dermatological fields, and has been proven to effectively treat osteoarthritis, injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves and joints, as well as various musculoskeletal problems.
Recently, studies have indicated that PRP can also serve as a safe and effective treatment option for male and female hair loss. As the patient’s own tissue is used in the procedure, doctors can harness its healing properties to promote natural hair growth with no risk of allergic reaction or rejection. PRP has been used in combination with hair transplant surgery to reduce swelling and pain, and to increase hair density, but can also provide hair regrowth as a stand-alone procedure.
To prepare the platelet-rich plasma, 30-100ml of the patient’s blood is drawn from their arm. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge which spins the sample in order to separate the platelets from the rest of the red and white blood cells and other components. 3-10ml of concentrated, platelet-rich plasma containing three to five times the number of platelets normally found in the bloodstream is then extracted from the sample. The platelets are then mixed with calcium chloride, thrombin and occasionally collagen in order to activate them, meaning that the many different growth factors - naturally occurring substances which can stimulate cell growth, healing, and rejuvenate skin from the inside - contained in the PRP are released. Some of these growth factors include, platelet-derived growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, epidermal growth factor and connective tissue growth factor.
This activated PRP is then applied or injected into the scalp once it has been numbed with topical or local anesthetic. Occasionally at this stage a micro- needling treatment is employed in order to kick-start the skin’s repair process to naturally produce collagen and elastin and to allow for optimal absorption of the PRP.
The whole procedure lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes and the aim is to stimulate hair growth, by rejuvenating and repairing hair follicles, and also to prevent hair loss. After the initial session, patients are recommended to have another after six weeks and then at three month intervals for the first year, with follow-up treatments every six months after that, depending on the response.
Some surgeons include the treatment to complement a hair transplantation procedure. It is recommended for younger male patients who are starting to lose their hair but may be unsuitable for a hair transplant, women experiencing postpartum, perimenopausal and menopausal hair loss, those with thinning hair, and those who have undergone hair transplant surgery.