A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that moves hair follicles from back or sides of the scalp (donor site) to the bald or thinning area (recipient site), which is usually the front, top, or crown of the scalp. Hair transplants can be an effective technique for permanent hair replacement and are among the most dependable hair loss solutions.
Hair Transplant Techniques
- Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is a highly-advanced technique of hair transplantation for people who have large bald areas on their head. This procedure involves removing a strip of hair from the donor site where hair fall is less and hair growth is still thick. Thousands of follicular unit grafts of the strip are transplanted in a single session. The hair growth from these grafts follows a very natural growth pattern.
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a hair transplant technique in which the individual follicular units of hair are extracted from the donor site of the head. Each unit contains one to four hairs. This is an ideal technique for patients who like to wear their hair short and also those who have a tight scalp or have previously undergone the strip or FUT method but with little or no success.
Hair Transplant Procedure Steps
To begin a hair transplant procedure, the surgeon uses a small needle to numb the scalp with the use of local anesthetics.
In follicular unit transplantation (FUT):
First, a strip of scalp skin is removed from the back or sides of the head using a scalpel. The incision is typically several inches long. Next, the surgeon closes the scalp from where the strip of hair tissue was removed using tiny stitches. The scar can be covered by your remaining hair. The surgeon then separates the removed portion of scalp into individual follicular units (tiny grafts with a few hairs) and finally inserts the follicular graft units into the tiny holes made in the bald or thinning area carefully.
In follicular unit extraction (FUE):
After shaving your head thoroughly, the surgeon extracts hair follicles directly from the back of the head through hundreds of tiny punch incisions using a tweezer-like instrument. Then, he inserts the follicular units into the tiny holes made with a blade or needle in the area of your scalp, where hair loss has occurred. In this method, there is no need for a long incision in the donor area, as in the FUT procedure.
After the procedure, the surgeon applies a disinfecting solution to your scalp and places gauze or bandages to cover it for few days.
Recovery and Expectations
How you feel after surgery depends on the complexity and extent of the procedure. Strip harvesting surgery involves an incision, therefore recovery from FUT procedure may take longer than FUE. During the recovery period, pain from the incision can be another result of strip harvesting surgery, which can be managed with medication. Any stitches will be removed in a week to 10 days. The transplanted hair will fall out within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, as the hair goes into the resting phase initially, and in several months, the hair will start its growing phase again. The final results can be seen after 12-18 months.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Hair Transplant?
Good candidates for a hair transplant include:
- Men with male pattern baldness and enough donor sites
- Women with thinning hair
- Anyone who has lost some hair from a burn or scalp injury
Generally, candidates should have realistic expectations about the possible results of treatment, be in relatively good health, and not smoke cigarettes.
- Refrain from eating and drinking at least 12 hours prior to the procedure.
- Anti-inflammatory medications and aspirin must be avoided for at least 2 weeks prior to surgery.
- Do not take any B or E vitamins for one week before your procedure.
- Smoking should be stopped at least 3-4 weeks prior to surgery.
- Drinking alcohol must be ceased a day or two before surgery.
- Prepare to have someone drive home since most procedures are outpatient.
- You will be provided with set of medications which includes antibiotics, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, etc.
- Do not drink alcohol while you are on antibiotics.
- Sleep in an elevated position for 72 hours after the procedure to help reduce swelling.
- It is better to avoid vigorous exercise and contact sports for at least three weeks, because strenuous activity may cause your transplants or incisions to bleed.
- You may gently wash your hair within a couple of days following surgery.
- Avoid touching, scratching, and rubbing the area where the hair follicles have been transplanted.
- You should contact your doctor if you experience severe pain not relieved by medications, any unexpected symptoms, such as burning sensation or unusual swelling and high fever.
- Avoid sun exposure after undergoing hair transplant surgery.
Risks and Complications
Risks and potential complications of surgery in general include:
- Unnatural-looking tufts of new hair growth
- Follicle grafts will not “take.”
If you plan to have a hair transplant, you should be in good general health. This is because surgery is less likely to be safe and successful if your health is poor. Also, it is important to say that sometimes the transplanted hair will not look as good as you had desired. So you should discuss the options and risks with your doctor before undergoing this procedure.
Questions and Answers about Hair Transplant
What is the Success of Hair Transplantation?
For a hair transplant to be successful, the hair follicles should be vascularized rapidly, that is they should adhere in the area where the follicles are placed. If done by a right method, the success rate of hair transplantation is high. For a natural look, the hair should be transplanted to the hair loss areas with a correct angle, correct distance, and correct density.
How Long does a Hair Transplant Procedure Take?
Depending on the amount of the hair loss, the procedure is completed within three or four hours. If the hairless area is too large, multiple sessions at various intervals may be required to complete the treatment. In general, the intervention is carried out with sedation under local anaesthesia.
Does the Hair Transplant Procedure Hurt?
With the use of local anesthesia and intravenous sedation, discomfort during the hair transplant procedure is eliminated.
Will I be able to Swim and Enjoy Other Physical Activities with my new hair?
You should not swim for 14 days following procedure, especially in swimming pools as the chlorine content can vary. You will be able to swim and participate in any of the activities you enjoy after two or three weeks. Your new hair is permanent and may be washed, dyed and cut.
Is Hair Transplant a Permanent solution?
Hair transplant has permanent results because the hair follicles that are transplanted from the back and sides of your scalp are genetically built to resist baldness.
Will I Continue to Lose my Natural Hair after a Hair Transplant?
While the transplanted hair will be permanent, there is some risk that a patient will continue to lose their natural hair. This is one of the reasons why most surgeons decline to operate on men under the age of 25. Men who start losing their hair in early 20s tend to have quite aggressive hair loss and it’s not a good idea to have a hair transplant until the pattern of hair loss is established.
Will I need more than one Hair Transplant?
A single hair transplant is sufficient for most patients unless they have advanced pattern baldness. If you are heavily bald, hair transplant may not be an effective option because there will not be enough donor hair to cover up the bald spots.
How Much Time do I need to Take Off Work?
FUE is less invasive compared to FUT, but no matter which option you choose, taking about one week off from work is recommend. Though this may not be necessary in every case, many of patients find that this time is beneficial during the early healing process.