Q: I’ve heard about using platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy to treat hair loss. Are there any potential serious side effects that I should be aware of? — L.S., Roslyn, Long Island, NY
A: PRP is a therapy that has been used since 1987 to help promote the healing of hard tissue (bone, joints) and soft tissue (skin). To date, there have been no reported major side effects. ((Hall MP, et al “Platelet-rich Plasma: Current Concepts and Application in Sports Medicine” J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 17, No 10, October 2009, 602-608.))
Only a handful of published studies have tested PRP’s effectiveness and safety in treating hair loss; however, none of those studies have reported serious side effects. ((Kang JS1, Zheng Z, Choi MJ, Lee SH, Kim DY, Cho SB. The effect of CD34+ cell-containing autologous platelet-rich plasma injection on pattern hair loss: a preliminary study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Jan;28(1):72-9)), ((V. Cervelli, S. Garcovich, A. Bielli, G. Cervelli, B. C. Curcio, M. G. Scioli, A. Orlandi, P. Gentile. “The effect of autologous activated platelet rich plasma (AA-PRP) injection on pattern hair loss: clinical and histomorphometric evaluation,” BioMed Research International Volume 2014)), ((Khatu S.S, More Y.E, Gokhale N.R, Chavhan D.C, Bendsure N. Platelet-rich plasma in androgenic alopecia: myth or an effective tool. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2014 Apr;7(2):107-10.)), ((Schiavone G, Raskovic D, Greco J, Abeni D. Platelet-rich plasma for androgenetic alopecia: a pilot study. Dermatol Surg. 2014 Sep; 40(9):1010-9.)), ((Takikawa M, Nakamura S, Nakamura S, Ishirara M, Kishimoto S, Sasaki K, Yanagibayashi S, Azuma R, Yamamoto N, Kiyosawa T. Enhanced effect of platelet-rich plasma containing a new carrier on hair growth.Dermatol Surg. 2011 Dec;37(12):1721-9)), ((Trink A, Sorbellini E, Bezzola P, Rodella L, Rezzani R, Ramot Y, Rinaldi F. A randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled, half-head study to evaluate the effects of platelet-rich plasma on alopecia areata. Br J Dermatol. 2013 Sep;169(3):690-4.))
This lack of any reported major side effects coupled with the fact that PRP is obtained from a patient’s own blood makes doctors relatively confident that PRP treatments are safe for hair loss. ((Platelet-rich plasma: Clarifying the issues. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website, www.aaos.org, September 2010.))
All this said, researchers are continuing to evaluate both the efficacy and the safety of PRP therapy for the treatment of male and female pattern baldness.