SAN DIEGO – There is currently no standard protocol for injecting autologous platelet-rich plasma to stimulate hair growth, but the technique appears to be about 50% effective, according to Marc R. Avram, MD.
“I tell patients that this is not FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approved, but we think it to be safe,” said Dr. Avram, clinical professor of dermatology at the Cornell University, New York, said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium. “We don’t know how well it’s going to work. There are a lot of published data on it, but none of [them are] randomized or controlled long-term.”
While the precise mechanism of action of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) remains elusive, researchers hypothesize that platelets contain alpha-granules, which are released upon activation. In turn, this action releases platelet-derived growth factor, transforming growth factor–beta, vascular endothelial growth factor, epidermal growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, and insulinlike growth factor–1, which collectively help to stimulate the hair cycle.
In Dr. Avram’s experience, he has found that PRP is a good option for patients with difficult hair loss, such as those who had extensive hair loss after chemotherapy but the hair never grew back in the same fashion, or patients who have failed treatment with finasteride and minoxidil.
Currently, there is no standard protocol for using PRP to stimulate hair growth, but the approach Dr. Avram follows is modeled on his experience of injecting thousands of patients with triamcinolone acetonide (Kenalog) for hair loss every 4-6 weeks. After drawing 20 ccs-30 ccs of blood from the patient, the vial is placed in a centrifuge for 10 minutes, a process that separates PRP from red blood cells. Next, the clinician injects PRP into the deep dermis/superficial subcutaneous tissue of the desired treatment area. An average of 4 ccs-8 ccs is injected during each session.
After three monthly treatments, patients follow up at 3 and 6 months after the last treatment to evaluate efficacy. “All patients are told if there is regrowth or thickening of terminal hair, maintenance treatments will be needed every 6-9 months,” he said.
Published clinical trials of PRP include a follow-up period of 3-12 months and most demonstrate an efficacy in the range of 50%-70%. “It seems to be more effective for earlier stages of hair loss, and there are no known side effects to date,” said Dr. Avram, who has authored five textbooks on hair and cosmetic dermatology. “I had one patient call up to say he thought he had an increase in hair loss 2-3 weeks after treatment, but that’s one patient in a couple hundred. This may be similar to the effect minoxidil has on some patients. I’ve had no other issues with side effects.”
In his opinion, future challenges in the use of PRP for restoring hair loss include better defining optimal candidates for the procedure and establishing a better treatment protocol. “How often should maintenance be done?” he asked. “Is this going to be helpful for alopecia areata and scarring alopecia? Also, we need to determine if finasteride, minoxidil, low-level light laser therapy, or any other medications can enhance PRP efficacy in combination. What’s the optimal combination for patients? We don’t know yet. But I think in the future we will.”
Dr. Avram disclosed that he is a consultant for Restoration Robotics.