How Effective is Methylprednisolone Pulse Therapy for Treating Hair Loss?

Alopecia areata universalisAlopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder, results in hair loss in round patches, or on the entire scalp, or even on the entire body. It affects 1%-2% of the population. If hair growth is desired, strong drugs such as steroidal injections and topical corticosteroids can help. However, these drugs can have unwanted side effects and can become less effective over time.

People with severe alopecia areata have had varying amounts of success with methylprednisolone pulse therapy.

One study1 researched the effectiveness of the therapy, and how long the effects last. Researchers injected an effective dose of methylprednisolone into patients with severe alopecia areata.

The patients were in one of two categories: some had alopecia totalis or universalis (hair loss on the scalp), and the rest had actively progressive multifocal alopecia (hair loss throughout the body).

The researchers found that Methylprednisolone pulse therapy was well-tolerated with no side effects. The therapy was effective for about 3 months for patients with alopecia totalis or universalis. Additionally, patients with multifocal alopecia had results for about 6 months after their treatments.

Another study2 questioned whether Methylprednisolone pulse therapy is an effective treatment for alopecia areata. This study found also found that the therapy was not very effective in patients with alopecia totalis or universalis (hair loss on the scalp). Some had hair growth and improvement in their condition; some did not have any results; and some had a delayed response 9-16 months after the therapy. The therapy was found to be most effective on patients with multifocal alopecia areata, with half or all of the hair follicles growing hair for at least 3 months, and sometimes for 12 months or more. The therapy can be re-applied for additional results.

“People with hair loss should consult a professional for a firm diagnosis,” said Dr. Shapiro, a dermatologist and hair transplant specialist in south Florida. “Several conditions can cause spot baldness, including alopecia areata, fungus and traction alopecia (constant pulling). I can diagnose and treat most of these conditions.”

1. Guideline for Methylprednisolone Pulse Therapy of Alopecia Areata, Im et. al European Hair Research Society conference 2005.
2. Pulse methylprednisolone therapy for severe alopecia areata: An open prospective study of 45 patients. Friedli et. al. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology