There are many different kinds of hair restoration procedures, including hair plugs, graft implants, and the unfavorable flap or free-form flap procedure. Patients with hair loss often try these methods after attempting other preventative treatments such as topical, over-the-counter, and prescribed medications, vitamins, hair extensions, scalp pigmentation, or laser hair restoration. The effective surgery of choice for many people is a hair transplant procedure.
Hair transplant procedures involve removing hair follicles in small units and placing them in the areas of baldness. It is a far more convenient option to artificial hair treatments, as often, the hair will continue to grow after the procedure has finished. Hair then can be cut, combed, dyed, and treated as normal after recovery. Since the 1950s, this procedure has been completed within the U.S., and it is fairly common today. It’s a favorite procedure of many famous celebrities as well.
The first step of the hair transplant process is to harvest hair from a donor area to use in areas that are thinning or balding. The donor area is on the patient’s own head and typically includes hair on the back of the scalp. Also known as the occipital scalp, this horseshoe-shaped area of hair typically remains throughout one’s lifetime despite most baldness patterns. This hair is chosen typically for its strength and durability and is more or less permanent. These hairs are naturally resistant to DHT, a testosterone derivative that causes hair loss, reducing the likeliness of thinning and baldness. A medical professional will also judge the “donor density,” or amount of hairs per square centimeter. A higher donor density means that more hair can be used to cover more of the bald areas.
Tiny follicle units, containing one to four individual units of hair, are typically extracted through one of two methods: either by scalpel or during follicular unit extraction (FUE). The first method produces hair grafts but often results in a long-term scar. FUE often is a bit more involved, but it produces no scar. It involves collecting hair follicular units and can be done with the help of a highly skilled doctor and medical team or with a robotic medical device. Neograft and Artas are the robotic systems most commonly used. For many people, robotic surgery can potentially be the best hair transplant procedure option.
On the same day, the collected grafts are placed into recipient sites in the balding area. Again, robotics are often preferred during this process. Local anesthetics are typically applied to reduce pain, often to the point of complete lack of sensation. Depending on the extent and amount of hair being transplanted, a typical hair transplant procedure will take between four and eight hours. Because hair transplant involves no scalpel, there is a low risk of infection (about 1 in every 1,000 cases); however, a specialist may prescribe antibiotics to reduce that risk further.
Patients who are willing are able to go back to work the next day or two(though often it can take a full 7 days depending on how you heal). Patients will want to go about 10 days without washing their hair. Within two to three weeks, the transplanted hair will fall out. After about three to 12 months, the transplanted follicles will begin producing new hair (usually about 60% of new hair will appear after six months), and after about one to two years, the hair transplant will be fully matured. Usually, only one or two procedures are needed to achieve desired results. After that, the area will no longer need treatment, including topical medications and creams.
Note that not everyone with hair loss is a candidate for this treatment. If a candidate is looking for preventative treatments, this option may not be the best. Hair transplant procedure options should only be considered when the patient is healthy due to the small risk of infection. Those with diabetes, heart issues and other types of major health problems will want to discuss these issues with a medical specialist. If a patient has not yet shown signs of male pattern baldness, more preventative measures can be taken before surgery. Those with curly hair may want to consider using Neograft (also known as Alphagraft) technology, as the newer Artas technology is less effective with curly hair.
Those with diffuse hair loss, including some women with hair loss, should not consider this treatment, as hair loss in this instance does not fit normal patterns and it can also thin out important donor areas. Those with temporary hair loss caused by stress, medication, diet, or childbirth will not want this treatment, as these cases can also be treated by removing such factors after time. Overall, the best candidate for these kinds of procedures has a fair amount of relatively thick hair on the back of the scalp. Should you consider this procedure, remember to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about whether it’s right for you.