Hair transplant is a popular and expensive treatment procedure that enables a great many of us to deal with the problems of everyday hair troubles with a fistful of confidence. The plastic surgeon or experienced dermatologist transplants hair to the bald patches by taking hair from the areas where hair strength is high. Hair transplant is particularly beneficial for those who are experiencing heavy hair loss due to pattern baldness. This condition leaves them with patches on their head with no hair. Genetics, stress, hormonal imbalance, poor diet, medications, chronic illnesses, etc. are primary causes of baldness that can be treated with a hair transplant surgery to regain the lost confidence of the person. Also, there are different types of hair transplant procedures that are carried as per requirement and coverage. These are- slit grafts and micrografts. For less coverage, micrografts(1 or 2 hair per graft) are considered whereas for high coverage, slit grafts(4 to 10 hair per graft) are done. But, before you invest your fortunes in it, learn about the procedure, its risks, dos and don’ts and precautions to save yourself the agony of an experiment gone wrong.
What is the procedure of a hair transplant?
While we know about hair transplant being a powerful method for hair growth, most people do not know about the actual process of hair transplant. There are several myths that will be busted here by Dr Niranjana Raj, MBBS MD Skin, VD & Leprosy, FRGUHS. Dermatologist, Dermatosurgeon Joint Managing director- YCDC.
During Hair Transplant
First and foremost, the surgeon or dermatologist would clean the scalp thoroughly to get off any dirt, debris and dead skin.
After that, he/she would give local anaesthesia to numb the area of your head by injecting a needle on the head.
Now comes the step of obtaining follicles for hair transplantation. For this, two techniques can be used- Follicular unit transplantation(FUT) and Follicular unit extraction(FUE).
In follicular unit transplantation, using a scalpel, the surgeon or dermatologist performing the surgery would cut a strip of several inches long scalp from the back of your head.
The incision is then stitched.
Using a magnifying lens, the surgeon divides the scalp into different small sections.
Transplantation done through FUT helps in achieving natural hair growth that doesn’t look like transplanted hair.
The stitches would be removed after 10-12 days.
In follicular unit extraction, the surgeon cuts or pulls follicles directly from the scalp of the head through punch incisions. Hundreds or maybe thousands of incisions are done in this procedure.
Using a needle or blade, the surgeon would make tiny holes in the head where transplantation is to be done.
Now, he places the plucked follicles in these holes.
Depending upon the coverage, hundreds to thousands of follicle transplantation occur in the session.
It takes more than four hours for the procedure to complete.
The surgeon would cover your head with bandages until the follicles are set and wounds are healed.
However, hair transplantation is not conducted in one session. It takes several sessions conducted weeks or months apart to allow healing and proper transplantation.
After Hair Transplant
There are certain changes that you would experience after the transplantation process. Sore scalp and slight pain are very common after the surgery and you need to take medications to ease the pain and discomfort. Pain medications, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines are generally prescribed by the doctor to reduce the risk of infection and swelling that is highly likely to be caused after the surgery.
Also, if you see your hair falling after a couple of weeks, do not panic. This is completely normal as this allows new hair to grow. The time to see new growth varies from person to person. It may take 8 to 12 months for new hair growth to become visible. In some cases, the doctor also prescribes certain medicines to promote hair growth process. These medications also help in preventing hair loss in the future.
What are the benefits of hair transplant procedure?
People who are unconfident about their appearance and personality due to loss of hair or baldness are the ones who can get benefited with this treatment. This is indeed one of the expensive and tedious procedures for hair growth but it is worth the end result. We won’t lie but sometimes, it may not produce results as expected but the failure rate is negligible in comparison to success rates. Men with male pattern baldness, females with pattern baldness or excessive hair loss, people with other reasons of permanent hair loss are good candidates for hair transplant surgery. But there are certain cases where hair transplant is not the right option:
People who don’t have enough hair for transplantation or lack of donor hair sites
People who have temporary hair loss due to either reason
People who are prone to forming thick scars after surgery or injury
People with widespread pattern hair loss
Coming to how successful are hair transplants, there are many rumours doing the rounds. Firstly, every case is different and so, the result would also differ. No two people can have the same experience and so, their feedback would vary.
Hair transplant is an effective way to restore hair growth and regain hair that was lost due to several reasons or causes of hair loss. The success rate of any procedure including hair transplant depends on some factors such as area of baldness, the thickness of donor hair, the experience of the doctor in transplantation, the existing medical condition of the person seeking transplant, etc. Modest changes are expected with this procedure in terms of improved thickness and fullness. People who are seeking drastic changes shall opt for other options such as tissue expansion, scalp reduction and skin flap surgery. As per American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Follicular unit extraction or FUE is more successful as the average rate of people satisfied with this surgery results is higher.
On the other hand, those who received PRP or platelet-rich plasma therapy along with follicular unit extraction experienced great results. Almost all the receivers ecstatically told that about 75% of their hair regrow within 6 months of the treatment. This shows that PRP along with hair transplantation shows better and promising results as compared to surgery without PRP.
What are the side effects of hair transplants?
Experts say that this is a safe procedure if done carefully. Also, it majorly depends on the doctor who has performed the treatment as if he/she is not experienced enough, there may be complications. In some rare cases, side effects may occur even in successful surgery. Here are some of the common after-effects or side effects of hair transplant treatment.
Infection or bleeding
Since this is a surgical procedure that involves cuts and incisions, there are chances that bleeding may occur. Also, due to needle insertion and incision, wounds may be caused increasing the risk of infections. One needs to practice all the precautions to prevent these issues.
Because of cuts and incisions done on the scalp to take out donor follicles, scarring is possible. The risk of scarring is on both the donor area and transplant area. If your skin is prone to scarring, you must speak to the surgeon first before taking the surgery. Scarring may be visible or may hide under the regrown hair. In some cases, bumps may occur around the area where transplantation was done.
Pain and swelling
Any surgery is painful no matter it is short-term or long-term. But pain and inflammation are most likely to subside with time. If you are experiencing extreme pain and discomfort, ask your doctor to provide you medication to reduce the same.