About Hair Transplantation
Hair transplantation, also known as hair restoration and hair replacement surgery.
Hair loss or alopecia is a common problem that affects both men and women and can be caused by stress, diseases, some medical treatments and your ancestry. While some of these factors are temporary or can be reversed, many suffer permanent hair loss that can lead to self-confidence issues. Hair transplantation is a surgical technique which moves hair follicles individually from one part of the body to the other. The area of the body which the hair follicle is taken from is called the donor site the area that it is moved to is called the recipient site. In a lot of cases, it is used to treat male pattern baldness. This is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to help restore hair not only on the head, but also chest hair, beard hair or eyebrows and eyelashes.
The cost of this surgery will vary depending on which plastic surgeon the patient decides to go with as well as which geographic location they are in.
How is it performed?
There are many methods of hair replacement or transplantation that can be used, depending on the area that is thinning and what kind of look you would like to achieve. In all procedures, hair follicles are moved from one area of your body before being grafted on to the desired area, usually on the head.
During the procedure, the donor area is surgically removed and the scar is hidden by any existing hair. Then your surgeon will divide the removed scalp into hundreds of tiny segments each containing a single or several hairs. These tiny pieces are then transplanted back into the balding areas on your head.
A less common technique involves repositioning a flap of skin that containing hundreds of hair follicles into the area of hair loss to replace the balding scalp. This is quite a tedious procedure as one must maintain the integrity of the scalp and minimize trauma. Depending on how much hair is being transplanted, the entire process can take anywhere between two to eight hours.
What are my options?
The type and quality of hair you have and where your hair is depleted are factors that will affect your aesthetic surgeon’s decision on how and where to take hair to transplant from.
- Strip Harvesting
Strip harvesting in the follicular unit transplantation (FUT) method involves removing a strip of hair from the back of the head and dissecting it into tiny groups before these are implanted into the recipient sites. This is probably the most common method as it is faster than harvesting from several different sites and although a strip is fully removed, the scar is covered easily by surrounding hair.
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
Instead of removing donor follicles in a single patch, FUE involves removing several small groups of hair from across the scalp and then implanting these into the desired site. There is less bleeding and post-operative discomfort because the grafts come from all over the scalp and there are no sutures necessary. Scars from FUE are not concentrated in one area, but much larger area of hair will need to be clipped short.
- Flap Surgery
Flap surgery removes a section of scalp and replaces it with a different section of skin that contains live hair follicles. This technique can cover a large area of baldness because hair can grow immediately from the undamaged scalp.
- Scalp Reduction
Occasionally, a scalp advancement or reduction flap surgery is performed as an alternative to hair transplantation. This involves removing the bald section of scalp and pulling the hairline forward to fill in the spot. Normal hair transplantation or flap surgery can be used to cover the remaining areas if more hair is needed.
What will my hair transplantation incisions and scars look like?
Your aesthetic surgeon will determine where and how to remove the hair follicles after assessing your hair. They will choose a discreet location surrounded by other hair so the scar is unnoticeable. Strip harvesting leaves a long scar in the back of the head, but if there are multiple graft sites, these will be pencil-point scars that can be hidden easily by hair. Flap surgery and scalp reduction produces larger scars that can grow more prominent if further hair loss occurs. Your plastic surgeon can give you a better indication of the likelihood of that occurring.
What result can I expect?
Hair transplantation results typically last a lifetime however, some patients find they continue to lose their original hair or their new head of hair may not look as full as they would like. It’s not uncommon in these cases for patients to schedule a second surgery. For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome it’s important to return to your plastic surgeon’s office for follow up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you have any questions about your hair transplantation healing and results. Do not hesitate to contact your surgeon when you have any questions or concerns.
- Gives you a more youthful look
- Reduces or eliminates the need for a hairpiece or wig
- Provides a permanent solution to hair loss
- It might take months for hair to grow into the area
- Multiple sessions spanning over one to two years might be required
- No guarantee that hair will be consistent with previous hair growth
After surgery you will be given dressings for your scalp which will need to be worn for at least two days. Your surgeon may prescribe pain medication for your sensitive scalp and may also give you antibiotic medicine to reduce the chances of infection. If you experience extreme or long-lasting pain or notice redness and swelling after the surgery you should contact your surgeon immediately to find out if your pain, redness and swelling are normal.
It is essential you follow all patient care instructions given to you by your physician. This will usually include information about which compression garments to wear, how to take care of your drains, how to take any antibiotics or painkillers, if prescribed, and the level of activity that is safe for you to undertake. Your surgeon will also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms and how to spot any signs of complications.
Everyone’s body is different and so the amount of time it takes to recover varies between individuals. Typically, you can return to work after hair transplantation within one to two days, although some patients choose to take more time off work, depending on your occupation. Soon after surgery, the hair grafts will fall out and will not re-grow for around three months. This is completely normal and allows new, fuller and more natural looking hair to grow in its place.
Limits & Risks
Fortunately significant complications from hair transplantation are infrequent. Every year thousands of people undergo successful restoration and are pleased with the results. Your specific risks will be discussed during your consultation. All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. You can minimize the risk to you by carefully following the instructions and advice of your plastic surgeon before and after your cosmetic surgery procedure.
Some potential complications of all surgeries are:
- Adverse reaction to anaesthesia
- Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal)
- Infection and bleeding
- Changes in sensation
- Allergic reactions
- Damage to underlying structures
- Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures.
- Blood clots in your legs or lungs
Other risks specific to hair transplantation are outlined below:
- The hair follicles themselves may become inflamed or infected.
- Some patients experience what’s known as “shock loss” which causes all of the transplanted hair to fall out at once. However, it’s very unlikely that this hair loss is permanent and typically new hair will grow in its place.