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Sculptra™ is an injectable facial filler product that was primarily developed to help people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who suffer from lipoatrophy — the break down and deterioration of body fat causing such things as deep lines, sunken cheeks, or indentations in the limbs or buttocks. It is believed that lipoatrophy is a side effect of the HIV itself and/or caused by the use of several HIV medications.
Also known as New Fill™, and manufactured by Dermik Laboratories, Sculptra™ was the first US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatment for lipoatrophy in HIV patients. It's also used outside of the United States.
Sculptra™ is a synthetic material that is easily broken down by the body. Because it is not made from human or animal sources, it does not require allergy testing. Its main ingredient is something called Poly-L-lactic acid (PLA) which comes from the alpha hydroxy family (AHA). PLA is used for both the HIV and non-HIV population and for non-lipoatrophy purposes such as dissolvable stitches and orthopedic applications.
One treatment generally consists of four separate injections deep into the dermis or subcutaneous layer of the skin. Initially, the injection causes an immediate filling of the depressed area. Within a few days, the water used to dilute Sculptra™ will be absorbed into the skin, the swelling will reduce, and the site will appear to return to its initial depressed state. Sculptra™ inspires collagen to build and thicken around the injection site and, after several injections, the dermal thickness eventually will expand to a preferable level.
Different types of skin will react differently to Sculptra™. As with most cosmetic injections, thin skin is more difficult to predict and can create more visible side effects. Side effects for all skin types include small bumps under the skin, bruising, hematoma (internal bleeding), edema (swelling caused by fluid), discomfort, inflammation, and erythema (redness caused by capillary congestion). Most of these side effects can last on an average of three to 17 days, though in some cases, they can be present for as long as a year.
The price of a treatment varies but averages around $2,500 US Dollars (USD). This does not include related medical fees such as the cost of the physician's services. The manufacturer recommends that patients find a physician experienced in Sculptra™ as filler products require more talent to administer. Programs to help HIV patients with the cost are available.
The number of treatments will vary among patients but in more extreme cases it can take up to six treatments. Treatments generally last two to three years but follow-up treatments may be required in some cases. For the non-HIV population seeking cosmetic enhancement, a physician may suggest a generic form of PLA.