Using Platelet-Rich Plasma to Treat Hair Loss

Key Points:

1) Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an option for treating hair loss

2) Maintenance therapy every three to six months is recommended

Introduction

Many people experience hair loss, especially as we age (1). It’s also not uncommon to search for some remedy to try and postpone the inevitable or even attempt to grow back some of the lost hair. If you suffer from the most common form, androgenetic alopecia, (male or female pattern hair loss,) there are a few options to try (2). There is an oral medication for men that seems to be effective (3). This is not really the most helpful to women though and even some men are hesitant to try it after rumors of serious side effects emerged (4,5). Alternatively, there is also a topical medication with proven efficacy (6). The drawback to this option however is that it requires daily or twice daily applications that some people find messy and cumbersome. Outside of medication, there is also surgery. Hair transplant surgery can provide lasting and effective results (7), but it’s not for everyone and can be price limiting. For those with less common reasons for hair loss such as the autoimmune-driven disease alopecia areata, treatment options are even more limited (8,9).

Therefore, for a while we were left wishing for a solution that was medication- and side effect- free, didn’t require time-consuming daily applications, was non-surgical and could work for both men and women. The answer that followed was platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy (10). This may sound familiar or you may have heard of it as the vampire treatment as it has become popular with celebrities in recent years. For instance, it has been used as a facial treatment and by athletes to help recover from injuries. Recent studies have shown that it can also be effective for hair restoration (11,12). Therapy involves drawing a small amount of your own blood (significantly less than if you were to donate blood). One of the components of the blood, the platelets, are separated out. These platelets are then injected into the areas of hair loss. The platelets contain growth factors that are believed to encourage blood flow and active growth in resting hair follicles (10). Side effects are minimal including complaints of pain from the injection, mild headache and itchiness (13–24). Studies also provided evidence that this treatment could work for both males and females (15,25,26) although some studies suggested that it may work better for males (16,27). Finally, PRP has been shown to be beneficial for other hair loss disease such as alopecia areata as well (28).

In practice, individual results can vary and people are likely to require more than one treatment. Moreover, how many treatments are required and how often should they happen are reasonable questions to ask before starting the procedure. Many studies have observed improvements in hair thickness and density by employing three treatments (21,29–33), but using a randomized, controlled trial, Hausauer and Jones are able to provide evidence to support the use of this schedule (26). The report “Evaluating the Efficacy of Different Platelet-Rich Plasma Regimens for Management of Androgenetic Alopecia: A Single-Center, Blinded, Randomized Clinical Trial” by Hausauer and Jones directly compares the popular three treatments plan with a two treatments plan (26). Those receiving that former had significantly better results although both treatment groups demonstrated improvements in hair growth (26). This trial was small (40 people,) and does need to be confirmed through replication but was still an important contribution into ensuring patients are getting the best possible results.
The other point to consider when discussing a treatment schedule is maintenance therapy. Once desired results have been achieved, occasional treatments will likely be required to maintain those results. There is evidence that maximum results can be observed three months following therapy (17) and relapse can be expected by 12 months following therapy (21). Thus, a maintenance treatment every three to six months has been shown to be beneficial (13,17) which was also supported by the research of Hausauer and Jones (26).

Overall, if medication or surgery is not for you, PRP therapy is available to treat hair loss. Results from a clinical trial by Hausauer and Jones suggest three treatments followed by a maintenance treatment every three to six months. PRP can also be used in addition to other treatments. Most importantly, before considering a new therapy, talk about your individual needs and situation with your health care provider.

Article by: Dr. J.L. Carviel, PhD, Mediprobe Research Inc.

References

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