Kim Kardashian's "vampire facial" - blood extracted, enriched by centrifuge and injected into someone's face - is being offered at clinics in Auckland and Christchurch.
Platelet Rich Plasma therapy (PRP) is offered at several plush cosmetics clinics for hair regeneration and as "filler" in facial and neck procedures. The therapy draws on PRP which is used in sports medicine for tissue regeneration of chronic wounds and tendons.
Blood is drawn from the patient's arm, spun in a centrifuge to isolate the platelets - cell fragments the body sends to injury sites for clotting - and then injected into the desired area.
The theory is that platelets bring "growth factors" that regenerate areas.
PRP entered the public consciousness when it was revealed Tiger Woods had used the therapy post-surgery for his troublesome left knee in 2009.
It again hit the headlines when reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted a photo of herself this month with a bloodied face from undergoing what was dubbed a "vampire facial".
Auckland doctor Paul Nola, from Ponsonby Cosmetic Medical Centre, said Kardashian appeared to have had PRP in conjunction with a needle roller.
A needle roller is a cylindrical barrel studded with needles that is rolled across the face to perforate the skin. The PRP solution is then smeared across the holes.
Nola said this was "cheating", however, and he preferred to inject his clients with the plasma, sometimes under local anaesthetic.
When used as "filler" to smooth wrinkles, the water that made up most of the plasma slowly absorbed into the body, leaving the beneficial platelets to encourage regeneration.
The special syringes that go into the centrifuge are expensive, and costs for treatments quoted at Auckland clinics have ranged from about $400 per tube to $650. A typical treatment requires one or two syringes, depending on the area to be covered.
Nola, who has used the technique for about four years, said results varied for cosmetic procedures from person to person, often depending on the quality of their blood and its platelets.
"Crepey skin" around the neck was particularly good for the treatment but he had had the best outcomes when using the technology for hair regeneration. The results were as good as the best hair growth drugs, he said.
Dr Frances Pitsilis, who made the television show Is Modern Medicine Killing You?, said the therapy was good for tissue repair.
She has injected it twice into her husband's knee and he has had no troubles since then.
A 60-year-old Auckland man who had used the treatment for hair growth said the treatment "certainly picks up the quality of your hair" and may have produced darker growth than normal.
The man, who declined to be named, said he was attracted by the fact it was using his own body's products. "It can't be harmful to you because it's your own. There's no chance of any infection."
An ACC literature review and report in 2011 recommended not funding PRP for tendon tears and strains as the quality of the research was not good enough, though it noted laboratory tests had produced "promising results".
New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons spokesman Dr Tristan de Chalain said he would give PRP a "cautious approbation" as there were some good results but "the science behind why it works is still becoming clearer".
"One swallow doesn't make a summer, but as regards PRP therapy, there are more and more success stories circulating. There seems to be some good evidence accumulating, that concentrated platelets can and do have a beneficial effect in a variety of complaints."
De Chalain said he had had good results using the therapy for chronic wounds. "In the realm of cosmetic surgery, it's a bit more of a stretch to claim that it's the magic bullet for ageing but it does seem to have some beneficial effects.
"At least it's definitely more credible than some of the snake oil I've seen peddled."
- Sunday Star Times
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