Whether it is genetic, medical, stressful or even pathological, hair loss can be extremely bad. To deal with this problem, surgery suggests hair transplantation; an operation to fill in an area of the head where hair is lacking. But how does it take place? What should we expect from it? And what are the associated risks?
Hair transplantation is a type of surgery that involves moving hair to fill in another area that is dotted with fine or hairless hair. Doctors have been performing these transplants since the 1950s, but the techniques have changed a lot in recent years. This operation can be performed in a number of cases, although the advisability of its performance is left to the advice of the surgeon.
First, the surgeon cleans the scalp and injects a product to anesthetize the harvest area (often the back of the skull). The patient, with the doctor’s advice, chooses one of two transplant methods beforehand: follicular unit strip surgery (FUT) or follicular unit extraction (FUE). With FUT, the surgeon removes a 15 to 25 cm strip of skin from the back of the skull. The area used for sampling is then closed. This area is hidden by the hair around it, as long as it is long enough. The FUT method is suitable for this especially for women.
Next, technicians divide the removed scalp strip into 500 to 2,000 tiny grafts, each with an individual hair or multiple hairs. The number and type of suitable transplant depend in particular on the type of hair, their quality, their color and the size of the area to be garnished.
With the FUE technique, the surgeon’s team will shave the back of the scalp, and then the doctor will remove the hair follicles one by one. The area heals in small “dots”, which the existing hair will cover. The advantage of this technique is that the micro-scars are scattered irregularly over the harvesting area, the “after-effect” of the operation becoming almost invisible even with short hair.
After this point, the two procedures are the same. After the grafts have been prepared, the surgeon cleans and anesthetizes the area where the hair will be implanted, creates slits with a scalpel or needle, and gently places each graft. New methods allow implantation without making a first incision, with a single special tool inserting the bulb directly under the scalp. Depending on the size of the graft, the process takes around 4 to 8 hours.
Price, risks and side effects
The price of a hair transplant will largely depend on the amount of hair to be transplanted, but it typically ranges from $ 3,000 to $ 15,000. Most insurance plans don’t cover it. As with any type of surgery, transplants come with certain risks, including bleeding and infection. There is also the possibility of poor healing and seeing new artificial-looking hair grow back.
Around the time that new strands begin to grow, some people have inflammation or infection of the hair follicles, called folliculitis. Antibiotics and compresses can alleviate the problem. It is also possible to suddenly lose some of the original hair near the implantation area, called shock loss. But most of the time, it’s not permanent.
What results can you expect from the transplant?
After surgery, the scalp can be very sensitive. Pain relievers can be taken for several days. The surgeon applies bandages to the scalp for at least a day or two. They may also prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory to be taken for several days. Most people can return to work 2 to 5 days after the operation.
Within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, the transplanted hair will fall out, but new, more lasting growth will take place a few months after. Most people will see 60% of the new hair growth after 6-9 months. Some surgeons prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine), a drug that stimulates hair growth after transplantation.