Hair Transplant Surgery: Understanding the Procedure and How It Works
It happens to most guys eventually: they look in the mirror to find that they simply don’t have as much hair as they did the day before. We have good news and bad news for such men. Let’s have the bad news first: at least two-thirds of men will suffer from male pattern baldness at some point in their lives. For some, it strikes as early as the teenage years. The good news is that there is hope for those wishing to hold on to their hair follicles a little longer.
The most permanent solution for hair loss is the hair transplant. This procedure has been employed in the US since the 1950s, and it involves taking hair from the back or sides of the head and placing it on the top where it’s thinning or gone.
Most hair transplants are done in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. First, the surgeon cleans off the scalp. Then he injects an anesthetic to the place where the strip of scalp is going to be removed. The strip of scalp is taken and set aside, and then the scalp is sewn shut again.
Next, the surgeon divides the strip of scalp to somewhere between 500 and 2000 tiny grafts containing individual hairs or just a few hairs each. After the grafts are prepared, the surgeons cleans and numbs the area where the hair is to be placed, creates holes with a scalpel, and delicately places each graft into a hole. The entire procedure takes about four to eight hours.
Afterward, the scalp may be very tender, which may necessitate the use of pain medications for a few days. You may also have to take a surgical or anti-inflammatory drug to be taken for several days. Most people return to work two to five days after the surgery.
After two or three weeks, the transplanted hair will fall out. Don’t worry—this is normal. It will grow back within a few months, and most people report having 60% of new growth after six to nine months. If you’re still looking for thicker hair, some doctors may prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine) or the medication finasteride, which that have been shown to slow or stop hair loss. Sometimes people go in for more sessions if they still want thicker hair.
Hair Transplant Techniques and Procedure
Hair transplant surgery has come a long way from the days of antiquated hair plugs. Advancements in medical technology have introduced more refined techniques such as follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT). These procedures offer a permanent solution to hair loss by transplanting healthy hair follicles from the donor area to areas experiencing thinning or baldness.
Let’s first take a closer look at the Follicular Unit Grafting Technique, also known as FUG or strip harvesting. This method involves removing a small strip of scalp containing healthy hair follicles from the donor area, which is typically located at the back or sides of the head where hair growth is abundant and genetically resistant to hair loss.
The procedure begins with the administration of local anesthesia, ensuring minimal discomfort for the patient throughout the process. Once the anesthesia kicks in, the surgeon carefully removes the strip of scalp using precise surgical techniques. Subsequently, they skillfully suture the area, leaving behind a thin linear scar that can be easily concealed by surrounding hair.
The strip is then dissected under specialized microscopes, separating it into tiny grafts known as follicular units. These units are naturally occurring groups of one to four hairs. The surgeon meticulously prepares recipient sites on the bald or thinning areas, taking into account factors such as angle, density, and direction of existing hair for seamless integration.
After completing all necessary preparations, the surgeon delicately places each individual graft into its respective recipient site, ensuring optimal aesthetic results. The entire procedure may take several hours depending on factors like the number of grafts required and the patient’s specific needs.
Following surgery, patients are provided with thorough instructions for post-operative care. It’s essential to protect newly transplanted grafts during the healing process by avoiding strenuous activities and refraining from touching or rubbing the scalp excessively. Scabs may form around the grafts, which should naturally fall off within approximately ten days.
Within six to twelve weeks after the procedure, transplanted hair follicles start producing permanent hair growth. Patients can expect to see noticeable improvements in hair density and natural-looking results as time progresses. However, it’s important to remember that individual experiences may vary based on factors such as the patient’s natural hair growth rate and their body’s response to the transplant.
Now that we have a good understanding of the general hair transplant procedure and the technique involved, let’s dive deeper into one of these techniques: Follicular Unit Grafting Technique or FUG.
Follicular Unit Grafting Technique
The Follicular Unit Grafting Technique, also known as strip harvesting, is one of the traditional methods used in hair transplantation. This approach involves removing a strip of skin from the donor area, typically at the back or sides of the head, where healthy hair follicles are abundant.
The process begins by administering local anesthesia to ensure patient comfort throughout the surgery. Once the anesthetic takes effect, a skilled surgeon carefully excises a narrow strip of scalp. The length and width of this strip depend on factors like the patient’s specific needs and available donor supply.
After extracting the strip, tiny incisions are made in the recipient area where hair loss or thinning is apparent. These incisions are meticulously created with precise angles, direction, and density to replicate a natural-looking hairline.
Next comes the crucial step of graft dissection. The strip is divided into individual follicular units under a microscope. These units usually contain one to four hair follicles, ensuring that each graft transferred matches the natural pattern of surrounding hair for optimal results.
Once all necessary preparations are completed, the surgeon then transplants these individual follicular units into their designated recipient sites. The transplantation process requires the surgeon’s careful attention and expertise to ensure the desired natural-looking outcome.
Recovery following a Follicular Unit Grafting procedure generally involves a healing period, typically 10 to 14 days, during which patients may experience temporary swelling and mild discomfort. It’s crucial to follow post-operative instructions provided by the surgeon to minimize potential complications and promote optimal healing.
The new hair transplants usually shed within two to three weeks after surgery, but this is a natural part of the process. Over time, the transplanted follicles will gradually produce new, permanent hair growth that will blend seamlessly with existing hair.
Post-Surgery: Healing and Expected Results
Congratulations, you’ve made it through the hair transplant surgery! Now it’s time for the next phase of your journey – the healing process and the eagerly awaited results. Understanding what to expect during this crucial period is essential for a successful outcome.
After the surgery, you may have bandages covering the donor and recipient areas. These bandages are typically removed on the first day following the procedure. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions on how to care for your scalp during this time. It’s important to follow these instructions closely to ensure optimal healing.
During the initial days after the surgery, it’s common to experience some discomfort and swelling in both the donor and recipient areas. This discomfort can be managed with pain medication prescribed by your healthcare provider. Additionally, applying cold compresses to the affected areas can help alleviate swelling.
It’s important to note that everyone’s healing process is unique, and individual experiences may vary. However, within a few weeks, you can expect substantial progress in terms of healing and the growth of transplanted hair.
The transplanted hair typically falls out within two to three weeks after the surgery. This is entirely normal and occurs as part of the natural hair growth cycle. Don’t worry; new hair follicles will begin to emerge from those transplants within around three months.
Once new hair starts growing, you will gradually notice improvements in density and coverage over time. However, keep in mind that full results may not be visible until about a year after the surgery. This extended timeline is due to the fact that transplanted hair goes through a growth phase, shedding phase, and then a resting phase before regrowing.
Think of it as planting seeds in a garden. After sowing the seeds, you need to patiently wait for them to sprout, grow, and eventually flourish into beautiful plants. Similarly, after your hair transplant surgery, you’ll need to allow time for your transplanted hair to take root and grow.
By maintaining regular communication with your healthcare provider or surgeon throughout this post-surgery period, you can ensure any concerns or questions you might have are addressed promptly. They will be able to guide you on what is normal during each stage of the healing process and provide reassurance along the way.
Post-Surgery Care and Timeline
The success of your hair transplant surgery doesn’t solely depend on the procedure itself but also relies on how well you care for yourself during the recovery period. Proper post-surgery care is vital in achieving optimal results. Here’s what you need to know:
- Avoid touching or picking at your scalp: It’s essential to resist the urge to touch or pick at your scalp, as doing so may disrupt the healing process and potentially damage newly transplanted hair follicles.
- Follow proper cleansing instructions: Your healthcare provider will provide specific instructions on how and when to clean your scalp following the surgery. Generally, gentle washing with a mild shampoo is recommended after about two days.
- Be mindful of physical activities: Engaging in strenuous physical activities or exercises that may cause sweating should be avoided for at least three weeks after surgery. Excessive sweating can irritate the scalp, hinder proper healing, and increase the risk of infection.
- Protect your scalp from the sun: Direct sunlight can be harmful to your healing scalp and may cause complications. It’s crucial to shield your head from the sun’s rays by wearing a hat or using sunscreen specifically designed for the scalp.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle: Maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and avoiding smoking or consuming excessive alcohol can promote overall healing and support hair growth.
|Days After Surgery||Post-Surgery Care|
|Day 1||Remove bandages, follow cleansing instructions|
|Day 2||Gently wash hair with mild shampoo|
|Days 3-5||Return to work, if comfortable|
|Day 10||Have stitches removed by healthcare provider|
|Week 3||Resume exercise and sports activities|
Remember that recovery time can vary depending on the specific type of hair transplant surgery you underwent. Your surgeon will provide personalized guidance and a timeline tailored to your situation.
While adhering to post-surgery care is crucial, it’s also important to be aware of potential risks or side effects that could arise during the healing process.
Like any other surgery, hair transplant surgery carries a few risks. You might see some bleeding or infection, for instance. And also like any other surgery, hair transplantation can be expensive. It will cost you something between $4,000 and $15,000. Learn more HERE.