Adriamycin, a relatively new antineoplastic antibiotic, is currently undergoing extensive clinical trials because of its significant antitumor activity. A distressing side effect of the drug, however, is the marked hair loss or alopecia which occurs when cumulative doses of 180–315 mg/m2 of body surface area are received. This study attempted to prevent this usual hair loss by inducing scalp ischemia just prior to, during, and for 15 minutes after adriamycin injections by means of a special sphygmomanometer cuff inflated to 50 mm Hg above systolic blood pressure.
Study subjects were randomized into control or experimental groups. Patients in the experimental group received the cuff treatment with each injection of adriamycin until 180–315 mg/m2 was received. Hair loss was measured by independent judges' ratings of pre- and poststudy photographs. The cuff procedure significantly reduced the amount of hair loss experienced by patients in the experimental group. Approximately 3 weeks after critical dosages were received, patients in the experimental group had experienced a 17 ± 14% loss of hair while patients in the control group experienced a 69 ± 32% loss.