The reasons for hair loss can be genetic, traumatic, or related to a disease or injury. Hair transplantation allows the patient freedom from worry about the unnatural appearance of hairpieces, since surgical hair transplantation actually relocates follicles, encouraging natural hair growth in balding areas. Although this procedure is most commonly performed on men, hair transplantation is growing more popular among women, and may even be performed on children who have suffered permanent hair loss due to injury or disease.
How is hair transplant performed?
A hair transplantation recipient will usually need between 300 and 3000 grafts, but this varies depending upon the size of the balding area. Newer surgical hair transplantation procedures give surgeons the ability to transplant small grafts or even individual hairs. The options provided by the various methods of hair transplantation include:
- Minigrafts : (3-4 hairs/graft): commonly used for men whose hair is thinning over a large area, to fill in gaps
- Micrografts (1-2 hairs/graft): often used along hairlines, this method of hair transplantation is especially useful if the hairline has receded only slightly
- Follicular grafts (1 hair/graft) look very natural and are used along the front hairline, or for areas that are thinning but not bald. This type of hair transplantation is also suitable for men who have a large bald area and would be satisfied with a light but natural looking thin coverage.
After working with the cosmetic surgeon to determine the type and location of hair transplantation, the patient will schedule the procedure. Hair transplant surgery is performed on an outpatient basis in a hospital, surgery center, or doctor’s office. A local anesthetic is used, and a small strip of skin to be used in the hair transplantation is removed from an area where the missing hair will not show, such as the back of the head, just above the neck. This is referred to as the "donor site".
The surgeon cuts tiny hair transplantation grafts from this strip of skin, then places them into tiny incisions in the balding area. In the case of single hair grafts, the hole for hair transplantation is simply made with a needle or in some cases a laser. The grafts are held in place by the clotting blood, while the donor site is closed with sutures. Usually hair can be washed the day after hair transplantation, and because the scalp has a good blood supply, the sites heal very quickly.
Within a few months of hair transplantation, it is often very difficult to distinguish between the graft sites and the natural hair. The successful outcome of hair transplantation is determined by the skill of the surgeon, the amount of hair in the donor site, and the individual's expectations.
Hair transplant recovery
The initial recovery period after hair transplant surgery is a few weeks during which time dressings may be used, stitches are removed, and swelling and bruising begin to subside. As with all surgical procedures, hair transplant surgery is associated with some risks and drawbacks.
Approximately six weeks after hair transplant surgery, the new hair will fall out. This is normal. New permanent hair will re-grow six to twelve weeks after surgery. Touch-up procedures are not uncommon to ensure that a patient achieves his aesthetic goals.
How expensive is hair transplant?
Hair replacement surgery is one of the top five most popular plastic surgery procedures sought by men in the United States. It is estimated that one in five women will experience some degree of hair loss at some point in their lifetime and may benefit from hair replacement surgery.
When a person seeks hair replacement surgery for cosmetic purposes, he or she will be responsible for full payment of the surgery costs. When hair replacement surgery is sought for reconstructive purposes, (as with trauma or burns) the patient's health insurance may cover the costs of the procedure.
The cost of hair replacement surgery depends on:
- the extent of the hair loss
- the type of procedure that is being used