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Imagine this. You book yourself in for a “Vampire Facial” treatment a la KKW and you end up with HIV? It sounds like a science experiment gone wrong, but this actually happened.
Tragically, two customers of the VIP Spa in Albuquerque, NM, were found to be infected with HIV after having PRP injections. This precipitated the New Mexico Department of Health to offer free HIV and Hepatitis B and C screenings to anyone who was injected there for a specified period before the spa was ultimately shut down after a health inspection found that unsafe practices may have spread blood-borne infections, like HIV.
This may leave you wondering how this could happen in 2019.
Here’s how, according to La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon, Robert Singer, MD, FACS, a Past President of American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS); “There are an increasing number of reported disasters with PRP cosmetic procedures. PRP procedures for rejuvenation are unfortunately not regulated, yet are in widespread use all over the US. To prevent complications, ideally these treatments should be performed by fully trained board certified plastic surgeons or dermatologists only after full informed consent of the benefits and possible problems, exclusively in surgical facilities that are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization or licensed by the state.”
Regrettably, there is a rise in medical treatments being delivered in quasi-medical facilities by a coterie of providers with mixed experience, so you need to be vigilant. No procedure is truly risk-free in the wrong hands. Platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) involves taking a few tubes of your blood and putting it through a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets. This rich concentration of your own platelets is then injected to release growth factors that can work to stimulate the healing process, reduce the appearance of scarring, and rejuvenate the skin. This technique has a long history of usage in many specialties including orthopedics, reconstructive and plastic surgery, hair restoration and dermatology, and the safety factor is considered to be high. In fact, I had a full face PRP treatment with a board certified facial plastic surgeon on Park Avenue and was thrilled with the skin-loving results!
“As injectable treatments have begun taking place in spas, hair salons, homes, and other non-medical venues, it is concerning that there may well be a proliferation of related complications and perhaps tragedies when medical protocols are not followed. Certainly complications can occur in medical clinics in spite of the best treatment processes. However, medical clinics and medical facilities are subject to certain types of compliance requirements, treatment standards and oversight that are not present in all non-medical environments. Ultimately, it is important for consumers to recognize—and consider when making treatment decisions—that injections should be performed using sterile techniques under medical treatment protocols,” said Facial Plastic Surgeon Phillip R. Langsdon, MD, President, American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.
The key takeaway from this unfortunate incident are NOT that PRP injections are a high risk procedure, but rather that you should do your homework when choosing where to have it done to stay safe. According to New York City plastic surgeon Alan Matarasso, MD, FACS, President of ASPS, “Proper sterilization and disinfection of surgical instruments can significantly reduce the exposure to blood-borne infections, as can safe disposal of needles and syringes. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons advises patients to thoroughly investigate a clinician’s medical licensure, and to only seek aesthetic procedures at facilities that are operated under proper medical supervision with board certified plastic surgeons or dermatologists.”