Everything You Need To Know About Hair Transplant Surgery

Hair transplants offer a solution for those who have experienced hair loss, including men with male pattern baldness. Hair transplants have developed significantly in the past few years, and they can offer excellent, artistic results. The procedure involves using hair from other parts of the body, typically the posterior scalp, and moving small grafts of that hair to  maintain the natural characteristics of hair growth. Both men and women who have experienced hair loss and baldness can benefit from hair transplantation for improved thickness and fullness of the hair in the aesthetically important areas. There are various things to know and consider before choosing to have a hair transplant procedure.

Good Candidates For A Hair Transplant

One of the most important things to know is whether a hair transplant could work for you, and if it is the right choice for you. A hair transplant is an option for anyone who has experienced hair loss or thinning and would like to improve their appearance. However, there are also a few factors to take into account when considering this type of surgery. For example, although you can have a hair transplant at any age, you should think about what your hair loss might look like in the future. If you believe you will continue to lose hair, you might want to wait a little longer before considering a transplant.  Unrealistic expectations and degree/speed of loss can make a patient a poor candidate for surgery.

One of the most important factors to consider when contemplating surgery is your health. There are a few specific health issues to think about with hair transplants.   Autoimmune hair disorders, blood thinners, and a history of prior scalp surgery are just a few. You always need to take your health into account when considering a surgical procedure. You should be healthy enough to undergo any kind of medical procedure, and there might be some medical issues that increase your risk of complications. Speak to your medical care team about any concerns before having a hair transplant.  A healthy lifestyle can help ease your recovery, and reduce the risk of any problems resulting from the procedure.

Does A Hair Transplant Work And Is It Permanent?

If you are thinking about a hair transplant, the treatment’s effectiveness and results are a strong deciding factor. There are a few things to consider when evaluating the efficacy of hair transplants. Firstly, hair transplants are generally the most reliable choice compared to other hair loss treatments such as over-the-counter hair restoration products. However, not all transplanted hairs grow.  it’s also important to bear in mind that between 50% and 90% of the transplanted grafts will grow by 6 months. What’s more, transplanted hair behaves like normal hair, so it too can start to thin. A hair transplant might not work for everyone, but it is an effective hair loss treatment for many people. A consultation with an experienced surgeon such as a Facial Plastic Surgeon will help you decide if a hair transplant procedure is right for you.

Hair transplant surgery remains the only permanent way to treat hair loss. Some hair loss medications and products can help, but a hair transplant can be the most effective in properly selected patients. Hair transplant surgery can be combined with topical medications or oral medications that promote hair growth to boost the effects and aid healthy hair growth. In many cases, it takes four months for full and natural hair to grow after transplant surgery.

 

What Happens During A Hair Transplant?

Hair transplant surgery is not too complicated to understand. There are two methods that a surgeon can use to obtain the hair follicles that will be used for the transplant. The first is follicular unit transplantation (FUT). This involves cutting a strip of skin from the scalp at the back of the head. It’s possible this can result in a hair transplant donor scar, although the scar is very unlikely to be large. Typically, the resulting scar is invisible to others.  After the incision has been closed with stitches, the surgeon uses magnifying lenses, microscopes and surgical blades to separate the removed portion of scalp into smaller sections. The smaller the surgeon makes the follicular unit grafts (1, 2 or 3 hairs each), the more natural the hair growth can be made to appear.

The second method of extraction is follicular unit extraction (FUE). Using this method, thousands of small incisions are made to extract the hair follicles. The surgeon uses a small punch to remove each of the follicular units.  In this way the scar can be “broken up” or made irregular. Some feel this scar hides better. Then the surgeon uses needles to create recipient sites, where they will place individual hair grafts. This could mean placing thousands of hairs during the procedure, which could take around four hours or more. Once the grafting has been completed, gauze or bandages will protect the treatment site. If you choose to have a hair transplant, a number of sessions might be required to achieve the results that you want, depending on the level of hair loss and desired results.

What You Should Know Before Getting Hair Transplant Surgery

If you believe you are a suitable candidate for hair transplant surgery, there are several other factors that you might want to consider. Keep in mind that a hair transplant surgery isn’t an instant cure and that the regrowth of hair is different for everyone. It will generally take several months to achieve full hair growth of the grafted hairs, and no one is promised a thick head of hair. New hair will typically grow in 4-6 months after the surgery and 80%+ growth in all transplanted hair after eight months. Transplanted hair at the crown of the head has a slower growth cycle. You should also bear in mind that a good quality hair is necessary for optimal transplant results. Although no doctor can guarantee perfect results, a hair transplant offers a semi-permanent solution and leaves you with hair that  can be treated just like the rest of your hair. Once the transplanted hair is fully regrown, you can style it as you normally would.

Of course, because a hair transplant is permanent, it’s essential to give it some careful thought before making a decision. It’s not something that you can test, so you should understand the process before making your choice.   The artistry, training and experience of the surgeon are important in making your decision.  

Possible Complications From Hair Transplant Surgery

With any medical procedure, your decision is going to be heavily influenced by the potential complications and side effects. Although there are several side effects that can occur with hair transplants, they tend to be mild and short-term. Complications such as bleeding, swelling, itching or inflammation are usually resolved a few weeks after the treatment has been completed. Other complications might include infection, numbness, temporary loss of the implanted hair and tufts of hair that look unnatural.

How To Prepare For The Surgery And Choose A Qualified Surgeon

The first step to prepare for hair transplant surgery is to make sure that you have the right doctor. To find the best doctor for the procedure, you should be sure to do plenty of research. If you are not sure where to start looking, a professional organization such as the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons (ISHRS) can help you. You should be looking for a surgeon who specifically trained in hair restoration and who has plenty of experience. They should be able to show that they are an expert in the field, and even provide hair transplant before and after examples from previous patients.

Here are some questions that help narrow down the search for a surgeon:

  • Where did the surgeon obtain their medical degree?
  • How many hair transplant surgeries has the surgeon performed and how often do they perform the procedure?
  • Does this physician have a list of former patients who can attest to his or her abilities?
  • Has the surgeon published any scientific articles or studies?
  • Is the surgeon and office staff well-informed and willing to answer your questions?

Get in touch to ask your potential surgeon any questions that you may have or book a consultation to see them in person.

The Recovery Period

Recovery from a hair transplant has several stages. Any stitches that have been inserted can usually be removed within 10 days of the surgery, and most swelling and crusts will subside within a couple of weeks. If you have any discomfort, it can normally be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. Bandages can be removed after a day, and you can often gently wash your hair just two days after the procedure. It’s a good idea to take it easy after having a hair transplant. Vigorous exercise could cause bleeding, so waiting a few weeks to get back into your workout routine is important.

When recovering, your surgeon will check on the progress of your hair transplant to ensure that it is healing. They will offer you advice on any precautions you should take during this period, and it’s important to follow their suggestions. They can let you know when it is safe to resume normal activity. You might be prepared to return to work and other activities within a couple of days.

Some people find that their new hair falls out within the first few weeks after the transplant. While this can be disappointing, this is typical and the hair will grow back.  You can expect to have full results within a few months. A follow-up procedure can be useful for some people, helping to make the results more natural.

Conclusion

Hair transplant surgery is the only permanent option available for people with hair loss. Before deciding if the procedure is for you, consider the benefits and the potential issues that could arise. It is a safe and effective treatment, but finding the right hair transplant surgeon is essential to a safe and successful procedure.

 

About Douglas M. Sidle, MD, FACS

Dr. Sidle specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face, head, and neck. His services range from minimally invasive office procedures with little to no down time to major operations leading to dramatic improvements in appearance. Dr. Sidle is one of a select group of cosmetic surgeons who are “double boarded”. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
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