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Pulsed administration of corticosteroids in the treatment of alopecia areata.

BACKGROUND: Widespread alopecia areata (AA) is difficult to treat and modalities such as topical and systemic steroids, topical sensitizers (e.g., squaric acid dibutylester and diphencyprone), psoralen-ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, minoxidil, and immunomodulators have been tried.

METHODS: Patients with widespread alopecia (> 40% scalp involvement), including alopecia totalis (AT) and universalis (AU), were treated with 300 mg oral prednisolone pulses at 4-week intervals, for a minimum of 4 doses or until cosmetically acceptable hair growth was obtained. Response to therapy was monitored by serial photographs and patients were examined monthly for side effects of steroids. A 1000 mg oral prednisolone pulse was administered to five patients with alopecia totalis/universalis and to three failures of the 300 mg-pulse treatment.

RESULTS: Thirty-two patients (24 men, 8 women) with a mean age of 29 years were recruited. They had alopecia for a mean period of 2.8 years. Twenty-seven patients (21 alopecia areata, 5 alopecia universalis, 1 alopecia totalis) received 300 mg pulse therapy and eight patients received 1000 mg prednisolone pulses. Fourteen (58.3%) patients (13 AA, 1 AT) out of 24 evaluated treated with 300 mg pulse therapy showed complete or cosmetically acceptable hair growth. Response was evident on average after 2.4 months and was cosmetically acceptable at 4 months. Three (AA, AT, AU-one each) out of seven patients assessed for the 1000-mg pulse had cosmetically acceptable hair growth at 6-9 month.

CONCLUSIONS: An oral monthly pulse of prednisolone 300 mg is effective, safe, and can be administered on an outpatient basis. It is recommended as one of the modalities for the treatment of widespread alopecia areata.

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