All hair loss can be damaging to self-image, but due to the historically limited treatment options, alopecia can seem especially hopeless. New scientific advances, however, have led to new procedures. One of the most effective of these new methods for treating alopecia is platelet rich plasma, or PRP. While it has been used for several decades in oral surgery, neurosurgery, and sports medicine, it has only recently been recognized for its potential in treating hair loss.
Platelet-rich plasma is concentrated blood plasma which contains up to five times more platelets than are found in normal blood. Since platelets are a vital part of wound healing, they can help to regenerate tissue that has been damaged by the immune system. PRP also contains growth factors and proteins including platelet-derived growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, and transforming growth factor. These aid the platelets in promoting faster formation of new blood vessels, or angiogenesis, and localized cell growth than can then lead to hair regrowth.
Platelet-rich plasma is effective for both male and female hair loss and is capable of regrowing hair in alopecia areas, eyebrow hypotrichosis, and other types of hair loss or thinning. Ideal patients include anyone who is looking for non-surgical treatment for non-hereditary hair loss. PRP can be done as a stand-alone procedure to stimulate new hair growth, or it can be performed in conjunction with a hair transplant to aid recovery.
The PRP procedure is performed at The Choe Center and normally takes around an hour and a half, depending on the size of the treatment area. No anesthesia is required, but local anesthetics may be applied to the scalp to numb the area before treatment if the patient wishes.
Once you’re ready to begin the procedure, blood will be drawn and spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets and other proteins at the top of the tube, where they can be removed from the ordinary red blood cells. Once this platelet-rich plasma has been prepared, it will be injected into the treatment area using a fine needle to minimize discomfort. Once it is injected, it causes the miniaturized hair follicles in the region to become larger and more robust, stimulating stronger hair regrowth. No incisions are needed, and there will be no scars or stitches to remove.
In most cases, patients can return to work and other normal activities within 24 hours. Pain is minimal and should be easily managed with over-the-counter non-narcotic analgesic medications like Ibuprofen. You may experience some minor forehead swelling for a few hours after the procedure, but this is normal and resolves within 48 hours. Vigorous activity should be avoided until the swelling goes down. Showers and hair washing can be resumed immediately after the procedure, if desired.
Is Platelet Rich Plasma a stand-alone treatment, or can it be used along with grafts?
Both, depending on the situation. Plasma-rich platelets can be used very successfully alongside a hair transplant to improve survivability of the grafts, but it can also help regenerate new hair from stronger follicles when used on its own.
Where does the blood come from for the treatment?
In order to maximize effectiveness and minimize the chances of infection or rejection, we use the patient’s own blood to create platelet-rich plasma. This is done by simply extracting a blood sample and spinning it in a centrifuge at very high speed to separate out platelets and growth factors. Once these vital solids have separated from the rest of the material and become concentrated at the end of the tube, they are carefully separated from the material at the bottom. Platelet activators like calcium chloride or collagen are then added to prepare the cells to be injected into the treatment area.
Is it dangerous?
Not at all. Since it’s made using the patient’s very own blood cells, platelet-rich plasma therapy is a very safe treatment. When used on healthy patients, the only risk is a minimal chance of bleeding, bruising, or infection. A few patients also experience numbness in the treatment area, but this is temporary and normally clears up rapidly.
Is there anyone who should not receive Platelet Rich Plasma?
There are a few diseases that can interfere with the treatment. Patients with chronic infections, certain chronic skin conditions, blood or metabolic disorders, or skin cancer should consult carefully with Dr. Choe before deciding on PRP treatment.
How many treatments will I need?
A. It depends on your individual situation. PRP does not last forever in the human body, so repeated treatments are often necessary to continue repairing the damaged skin cells and hair follicles. Several treatments spaced 3-4 months apart leads to satisfactory results for many patients, but you’ll be able to receive more personalized advice at your consultation.