Background: Calcium hydroxylapatite is one of the most well-studied dermal fillers worldwide and has been extensively used for the correction of moderate-to-severe facial lines and folds and to replenish lost volume. 

Objectives: To mark the milestone of 10 years of use in the aesthetic field, this review will consider the evolution of calcium hydroxylapatite in aesthetic medicine, provide a detailed injection protocol for a global facial approach, and examine how the unique properties of calcium hydroxylapatite provide it with an important place in today’s market. 

Methods: This article is an up-to-date review of calcium hydroxylapatite in aesthetic medicine along with procedures for its use, including a detailed injection protocol for a global facial approach by three expert injectors. 

Conclusion: Calcium hydroxylapatite is a very effective agent for many areas of facial soft tissue augmentation and is associated with a high and well-established safety profile. Calcium hydroxylapatite combines high elasticity and viscosity with an ability to induce long-term collagen formation making it an ideal agent for a global facial approach.

Aesthetic medicine has advanced greatly in the past decade in terms of our understanding of facial anatomy; the cumulative effects of the aging process; and how dermal fillers may be used to repair, reduce, and even reverse these changes. Initially, aesthetic practitioners were “chasing lines and wrinkles,” based on experience with bovine collagen injections beginning in the early 1980s. We now appreciate that a natural and more youthful appearance is dependent on reversing the cumulative effect of age-related changes both on the surface and in the subsurface tissues. For surface aging, restoration of textural and pigmentary alterations is of paramount importance; for the subsurface, restoring lost volume and shape is the key to the more youthful proportions desired by our patients. This focus on facial shape and volume to restore balance, symmetry, and the proportions of youth has led to the development and worldwide clinical use of an ever-expanding list of dermal fillers for treatment of facial aging.

Dermal fillers as a category of implantable medical devices, consist of a wide array of products that differ significantly in their chemical composition, mechanism of action, duration, safety, and interaction with host tissues. Many different methods of categorization have been proposed, based in part on these differing characteristics; however, no single, universally agreed upon system exists to date. Of the proposed classification systems, one based on primary mechanism of action (MOA) first proposed by Werschler and Narurkar has been widely used.1 In this approach, dermal fillers are placed into categories of either collagen biostimulation or replacement volume as a primary MOA.

In this schema, Radiesse® (calcium hydroxylapatite; CaHA, Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany) is a unique product because it provides both replacement volume and collagen biostimulation as a primary MOA. In addition, CaHA is biodegradable and reabsorbed naturally by the host’s metabolic processes. This biostimulatory MOA, with ultimate reabsorption, results in a performance profile that is unique to Radiesse.

CaHA is a highly effective agent for many areas of facial soft-tissue augmentation and is associated with a well-established safety profile.2 The year 2013 marked a decade of Radiesse technology, which first received EU approval in 2003 for plastic and reconstructive surgery, including deep dermal and subdermal soft tissue augmentation of the facial area. In the intervening years, the range of uses for CaHA has evolved alongside developments in the field of aesthetic medicine from a surface-oriented two-dimensional approach, concentrating on removal of facial lines and folds, to a three-dimensional approach that also addresses both soft and hard tissue volume loss in both the face and the hands.3

With the popularity of dermal fillers demonstrated by increasing numbers of treated patients, public awareness and acceptance of nonsurgical enhancement has greatly increased the treatment options available. Along with botulinum toxin injections and energy-based devices, fillers are the mainstay of most medical aesthetic clinics. With increasing patient demand and the increased availability of aesthetic providers, private practices have become more competitive. Patient retention is now a major objective of most aesthetic businesses. Patient satisfaction is a key element for patient retention and requires a portfolio of safe and effective products. Long-term clinical experience, clinical research, peer-reviewed publications and regulatory approvals have combined to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of CaHA. The product has been evolved to meet the demands of a continuum of aesthetic care in terms of enhancement of youthful patients (ages 25-35); early prevention, rejuvenation, and volume restoration for patients in the middle decades of life (35-55); and for the delay and maintenance as part of restoration for mature (55-75+) patients as well.

In this tenth anniversary year, the authors consider the historical milestones of CaHA in aesthetic medicine, propose a protocol for a global facial approach using CaHA, and look at how its unique properties provide it with a place in today’s market and keep it at the forefront of modern aesthetic treatments. Throughout this publication, reference is made to labeled and off-label indications, techniques, and dilution protocols performed by experts in the field of aesthetic medicine. The reader is reminded that some of these are not approved by regulatory authorities and are not endorsed by Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH.


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