Platelet Rich Plasma

Joseph M. Perlman, MD
Article by
Houston Plastic Surgeon

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)


One of the exciting new developments taking place in surgery is the use of platelet rich plasma. Platelets are one of the cellular components of our blood. They are involved in forming clots to stop bleeding, and are also involved in the healing process ,including stimulation of blood vessels and collagen in healing tissue. They are used in many aspects of surgery to reduce pain, improve wound healing, shorten recovery time and reduce postoperative swelling and bruising. PRP has been getting a lot of publicity lately because of a Canadian physician ,who has been injecting PRP in to world-class athletes to speed up their recovery from injuries. There've been reports that he made many trips to visit Tiger Woods at his home in Orlando, as well as treating many professional football and basketball players.

Recently, there have been studies done about PRP use in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. It promotes fibrin deposition so that it seals off wounds more quickly. This is of value in raising flaps such as face lifts and tummy tucks, by allowing the space underneath the flaps to close off more quickly and decrease the chance of bleeding or fluid accumulation. In addition, PRP has been used on burn patients and laser resurfacing patients to speed up the regrowth of skin.

PRP enriched fat grafts have also been shown to last longer then fat grafts treated without PRP. This is becoming a hot topic, because using one's own fat tissue removed from one area of the body to augment another area of the body is becoming more sophisticated and more dependable. The problem with fat grafts in the past was that the harvesting and reinjection techniques were not very precise and the results were inconsistent. The techniques have improved significantly over the last few years and the addition of PRP as well as stem cell enriched plasma have led to much better results that last a lot longer. A small syringe of blood is drawn from the patient prior to surgery and the PRP is drawn off to be mixed with the fact that is harvested through liposuction. The enriched fat grafts are now used to add volume to the face, including the lips, and some investigators are also looking at using fat for breast augmentations. Injectable fillers such as hyaluronic acid (Juvederm, Perlane) are still the most common fillers used on the face, but it's nice to be able to have the option of using a patient's own tissue when available.