Another stroke of the hair brush, another handful of strands, and another visible patch of scalp. If you are one of the 80 million U.S. adults dealing with androgenetic alopecia – male and female pattern baldness – this scenario probably sounds all too familiar.
Going bald can be brutal, especially from a self-confidence and social interaction standpoint. In fact, one study suggests that 29% of women with hair loss experience depression symptoms. Another reports that hair loss can create an “enormous emotional burden” for men.
But a new, natural therapy may offer more patients hope for hair restoration without surgery, pills, or topical ointments. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection is a novel procedure that uses your own blood platelets – a type of cell that helps with healing throughout the body – to potentially reverse hair loss and grow new hair.
PRP for hair regrowth is a relatively new procedure, but it might be an option to help you look and feel like yourself again.
How does PRP work?
Though often associated with aging and genetics, hair loss can happen any time throughout adulthood. Balding occurs when the hair follicles, the small sacs that anchor individual hairs to the scalp, begin to shrink, allowing the hair to fall out.
In the world of sports medicine, doctors have used PRP to help heal muscle and tendon injuries. With hair loss, research suggests injecting the platelets found in a patient’s blood and activating growth factors can improve the blood supply to their hair follicles and increase the thickness of their hair shafts.
Before a PRP procedure, we will discuss realistic expectations with you. Improvement in hair health and thickness is possible and has been documented in several peer-reviewed studies. We will also talk about lifestyle choices that can affect hair loss, such as quitting smoking and eating a diet fortified with vitamin D and iron – two nutrients that might support hair growth.
'In the world of sports medicine, doctors have used PRP to help heal muscle and tendon injuries. With hair loss, research suggests injecting the platelets found in a patient’s blood and activating growth factors can improve the blood supply to their hair follicles.'
The full procedure takes less than 30 minutes. We will draw a sample of your blood, then spin it in a centrifuge to separate the platelets. Then, it will be extracted and injected into the balding areas of your scalp. Most patients report minimal discomfort, if any, and return to work the next day.
Patients will return once a month for three months for another injection, then once every three to six months thereafter.
The procedure uses your own blood, and risks are minimal. Although highly unlikely, risks can include bleeding, hematoma, infection, and nerve damage. Patients who take anticoagulants and those with an active scalp infection, chronic liver disease or a low platelet count should not have PRP.
Related reading: Scientists find skin cells at the root of balding, gray hair
Is PRP effective for hair loss?
As with any novel procedure, we are in the process of collecting long-term data to understand the possibilities of new and sustained hair regrowth with PRP. Today, some patients have PRP injection in conjunction with other hair loss treatments, such as medication.
Increasing clinical evidence suggests PRP can help patients with hair loss. Most PRP studies report following up with patients for up to six months after their procedure. After that point, we have limited data, but ongoing research can tell us which patients benefit most from PRP, which don’t, and why.
That said, patients who work with the board-certified team at the UT Southwestern Department of Plastic Surgery have reported feeling satisfied with their results. As we discover more about this exciting new procedure, we hope to help patients with hair loss achieve their goals with a treatment plan that includes PRP.