Can Temporal Artery Ligation Cause Hair Loss?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I have a question about temporal artery ligation. You have mentioned that the ligation of the temporal arteries would not cause hair loss. So, I’m 18 years old and I started to get a receding hairline and some slight thinning. Is it possible that these ligations don’t cause immediate hair loss, but accelerate the process of male pattern baldness? The internet says weird things, some sites claim that you should increase oxygen in the scalp and that bald people have less blood circulation/oxygen in their scalp. On the other hand, I came across a study that claims that ligation of the temporal arteries would stop male pattern baldness. I’m very confused and I was interested if you’d have an answer.

A: Hair loss, in general, is genetically driven. There is no medical evidence in an otherwise normal scalp that changing oxygen levels affects how the hair grows or how long it is retained. The scalp is so richly oxygenated by an extensive vascular system that it is impervious to varying oxygen levels throughout the body. A simple example of that concept is the effect seen in smokers who have lower blood oxygenation levels but often have very full heads of hair throughout their life. In addition, if oxygenating the scalp was beneficial for hair loss prevention there would be many scalp treatments available that offer that exact therapy. While the topical drug Minoxidil (Rogaine) does improve hair growth and hair loss prevention, it has a very specific vasodilatory effect on the hair follicle itself.

As it relates to temporal artery ligation, there again is no evidence that it has any effect on hair growth patterns…either a positive or negative effect. However, because of its collateral circulatory effects and employing the principle of choke vessels, a conservative approach to temporal artery ligation would be to do one side at a time. This is more an approach to ensure there is no negative effect on scalp skin survival and not necessarily for its effect on hair growth.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana