Words mean things. That’s why there used to be a standard in journalism that dictated the importance of journalists choosing their words carefully. Just one or two words in a sentence or paragraph can entirely change its meaning. This is evidenced by a number of news articles reporting on a recent HIV and hepatitis scare in New Mexico. Some of the articles imply – or outright state – that what happened in New Mexico suggests PRP therapy could be dangerous.
When people in positions of influence make such statements, they should have evidence to back up what they say. What happened in New Mexico is by no means evidence that PRP therapy is dangerous. It is not evidence that the procedure commonly known as the ‘vampire facial’ is unsafe. The only evidence the incident offers is evidence that shows how easily infection can spread when medical facilities don’t do things the right way.
The Back Story
Aesthetic physicians and PRP clinics across the country offer PRP procedures as beauty treatments to combat the effects of aging. The vampire facial is a PRP procedure that utilizes a micro needling technique to inject PRP material just underneath the surface of the skin. That material is essentially concentrated platelets and growth factors taken from the blood of the person being treated.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, an Albuquerque spa offering the vampire facial was flagged as at risk for spreading HIV and hepatitis following a department inspection. The department identified practices within the spa that “could potentially spread blood-borne infections… to clients.” The report went on to recommend clients be tested for hepatitis and HIV, just in case.
How would such diseases spread? According to the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), an organization that trains doctors how to perform PRP and stem cell procedures, there are only two ways. The first is accidentally using material drawn from an infected patient to treat another patient. The second possibility is failing to properly sterilize needles between procedures.
A Problem of Process
Stepping back and looking at the New Mexico incident from a scientific perspective reveals that the problem is not the PRP procedure itself. It is the processes put in place by the spa to prevent the spread of infection. PRP therapy practiced with hygienically clean instruments and using only blood drawn from the patient being treated eliminates the possibility of spreading HIV and hepatitis in a clinical setting.
Organizations like ARMI train doctors in the proper way to administer PRP therapy safely. The procedure itself is safe. It has always been safe, and it always will be safe. To say that PRP is potentially dangerous because a clinic or spa might not practice proper hygiene is ridiculous.
The same practices that could lead to the spread of disease via a PRP clinic could also spread disease among people who go to a public health clinic to receive the flu shot. If that public health clinic were to reuse needles rather than discarding them, failing to sterilize those needles could spread HIV and hepatitis just as quickly as an unhygienic PRP treatment.
The point of all of this is to say that a lack of hygiene or proper protocols in a clinical setting does not make PRP therapy dangerous. It only makes receiving treatment at the affected clinic dangerous. Let’s not make the mistake of branding PRP as unsafe when it’s not. Instead, let’s lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of procedures and protocols that can lead to the spread of disease in any medical setting.