Also known as Hair Restoration or Hair Transplantation – the surgical process of moving hair follicles from one part of the body, rich in hair (known as a donor site) and embedding them at the recipient site (the bald area).
It is a minimally invasive procedure, performed under local anesthetic and is most commonly used to treat male baldness, but the technique can also be used to restore eyelashes, eyebrows, beard hair and to fill in scars. The procedure usually lasts between 4 to 8 hours, depending on the number of grafts.
While there are many causes of hair loss, the most common reason, especially for men, is genetics. Hereditary hair loss as men age is the number one leading factor of baldness.
We lose an average of 100 hairs a day, however, these hairs are immediately replaced by new hairs growing at the same time. Hair loss can occur suddenly or gradually and it may affect your scalp or your entire body, depending on what’s causing it. Other causes of hair loss may include:
- Stress – a lot of people may experience hair thinning for several months due to a physical or emotional shock. However, this type of hair loss is only temporary.
- Certain Hairstyles and treatments – hairstyles that pull your hair like tight pigtails, ponytails or braids can actually cause traction alopecia. Permanent hair treatments and hot oil treatment may also lead to hair loss; these hair treatments cause inflammation to the hair follicles. If there is scarring, hair loss may be permanent.
- Radiation Therapy – for example, during cancer treatment.
- Certain medical conditions and hormonal changes – in women, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth menopause or thyroid problems may cause temporary or permanent hair loss. As for medical conditions, hair loss may be due to alopecia, scalp infections like ringworm or a hair-pulling disorder known as trichotillomania.
Sudden hair loss may also be a sign of a specific medical condition that will require treatment. You will need to consult your doctor if you experience more than your usual hair loss whenever you are combing or washing your hair and also if you encounter a sudden patchy loss of hair.
A hair transplant is a common treatment performed on people who are experiencing baldness due to aging and heredity factors. However, if you are completely bald with absolutely no hair left, then this type of treatment may not be applicable for you, as you won’t have sufficient donor hair to supply.
The hair transplant procedure involves taking hair from your Donor Site and transferring it to the area(s) lacking in hair, the Recipient Site, and a local anesthetic will be applied before the procedure begins to limit any discomfort.
There are two main methods used in a hair transplant procedure:
- Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) – strips of tissue will be removed from your donor area, these strips will be cut into individual follicular units. Small cuts will be made on your scalp where the follicular unit grafts will be placed. This method is becoming less popular.
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) – individual hair follicles will be directly extracted from your donor area and moved to your recipient site using a specialist microsurgical needle. FUE is now the preferred technique for hair transplants as it will not leave a linear scar at the back of the head.
Procedures are undertaken by a fully qualified technician and usually involve the extraction of around 3,000 grafts, going up to 4,000. Any more, and it will likely require two separate sittings to complete.
Length of Stay in Destination
Both methods used for Hair Transplant treatments usually take 4-8 hours to complete and you will be able to go back to your hotel immediately after. With the FUE technique, there are no stitches or staples to be removed, so you won’t need to stay local for long after the procedure, just allow a few days to be sure before traveling home. You should expect to pay the clinic another visit a day or two after the treatment so the doctor can remove the bandage, examine the areas of intake and transplantation of follicles, before washing your hair using a special technique which you will learn to perform by yourself. Finally, the doctor will provide you with a special shampoo that will help to restore the skin.
Your scalp will continue to be sensitive to pain for a few days, during which time you should continue to take the medications provided by the doctor. On top of the pain killers and anti-inflammatory meds, you may also be given antibiotics to lessen the risk of infection, as uncommon as this may be.
You should expect to return to work and your daily routine, including exercise, just a few days after. However, the signs of a hair transplant will remain for at least another 2-3 weeks, at which point the newly transplanted hairs will start to fall out – but don’t be alarmed! This is to be expected as you’ve just had a follicle extraction, so dead hair will simply make way for new hair over the coming weeks and months.
If the average person’s hair only grows at a centimeter per month, then it will take some time before you can wear your hair long again. You could expect to display short and consistent hair just 4-6 weeks after the treatment.
After the procedure is complete, anti-swelling medication and painkillers will be available and you’ll be provided with various essentials to see you through the days immediately following. Post-op items may include; specialist shampoo, lotion, multivitamins, a special hat, a headband, neck pillow, and wound dressing.
Having already been provided with your post-op aftercare products, you may also be offered Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy to help stimulate the hair follicles and encourage hair growth. This is where a small amount of blood is taken, rich in plasma, which is then injected into the Recipient Site.
The success rate for hair transplants is one of the highest, at 98% and is considered the only truly effective remedy for hair loss. Scarring is the most common side effect but is only applicable to FUT. Other potential risks and side effects could include infections, temporary loss of sensation around the surgical sites, inflammation of hair follicles (folliculitis), temporary scalp pain, itching, and swelling.
Alternatives to Hair Transplant
Laser therapy is one alternative to a hair transplant – a low-level laser device will be used as a treatment for a hair loss specifically caused by genetics. This low-level laser with a wavelength of 650 nanometres can actually stimulate your hair growth. However, long term effects for this type of alternative still remains uncertain.
PRP Therapy is another alternative to Hair Transplant. This type of treatment will make use of your own blood to promote hair growth. Your blood will be spun in a centrifuge to separate your blood’s plasma component from your red and white blood cells. Plasma contains many growth factors that promote hair growth when injected into the scalp.
Other non-surgical alternatives may be: shaving completely your hair, trying other hairstyles and using a wig or hairpiece.
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