Hair Loss Surgery
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Hair restoration surgery aims to restore, reduce and conceal, where possible, the effects of male and female pattern hair loss (alopecia). Treating hair loss is carried out by transplanting hair (hair transplant surgery) or grafting strips of skin from hair-bearing areas of the scalp. There are many hair replacement options available; the right technique is determined after discussing individual patient requirements and aesthetic goals.
The hairs are carefully extracted at the nape and grafted one by one or in small groups to increase coverage in bald or thinning areas. Hair transplant surgery requires a local anaesthetic.
The surgeon may prescribe oral medication for up to 24 hours after surgery. There may be mild swelling and itchiness around the treatment site. Hair can be washed 48 hours after surgery. There are small scabs and crusting at the treatment site for around ten days. Visible hair growth is noticeable around five to six months after the treatment.
Are the results permanent?
Transplanted hair shares the same growth characteristics as donor-hair. The results are usually permanent.
On average, hair transplant surgery costs between 4,000 euros and 4,500 euros per treatment session.
What can Hair Transplant Surgery achieve?
Hair transplant surgery is a well-known, standard procedure. It is carried out by removing hair follicles from high-density areas of growth, usually the nape, and grafting them to bald or thinning areas. The modern era of hair transplantation began in the 1950s, and the techniques applied have become steadily more efficient and refined ever since. Over the years, hair transplant surgery has advanced from the large unsightly plug-grafts used in the past to mini and micro-grafting techniques with small, natural one to three hair-unit grafts which achieve outstanding results. Understanding the possibilities and limitations of these treatments is essential to achieve optimal results. Unrealistic patient ideals are the leading cause of disappointment post-surgery. Furthermore, patients should always seek consultation with other board-certified plastic surgeons before undergoing this procedure as treatment plans and techniques vary significantly.
The possibilities of Hair Replacement Surgery
Hair transplant surgery does not stimulate new hair growth; it relocates existing hair to fill bald and thinning areas. Therefore, hair coverage in transplanted areas is never as thick as donor hair areas. Hair units are transplanted more densely at the front of the scalp (around the hairline), and less densely toward the back of the scalp to obtain a highly natural-looking result. As there are varying degrees of hair loss, the outcome of hair transplant surgery is not entirely predictable, and the results are highly individual. Undoubtedly, transplant surgery achieves less adequate coverage in patients with extensive hair loss.
The results are usually permanent as the hair follicles maintain their original growth characteristics after transplantation; therefore, transplanted hair does not usually fall out or if it does, this occurs in older age.
Generally, between 1,000 and 2,000 hairs are transplanted per treatment; theoretically, this figure can be as high as 3,000 or even 4,000. Many patients focus heavily on the number of hairs transplanted per session. However, it is important to consider that two separate treatments carried out several months apart, achieve better coverage and more natural results compared to a single session. This approach is particularly suitable for patients with mild hair loss.
Lastly, regardless of the number of hair follicles grafted in one session, hair transplant surgery is an in-office procedure. It is performed under local anaesthesia with minimal downtime – 24 hours after surgery, the only notable signs are small scabs around the treatment area and mild swelling around the eyes.
The limits of Hair Replacement Surgery
Undeniably, the main drawback with hair transplant surgery is that the results depend on the extent of hair loss, and an adequate supply of donor-hair. A less obvious drawback, often overlooked by younger patients, is that hair loss is a progressive condition which inevitably worsens over time. It is crucial that the surgeon explains the limitations of surgery and avoids using all of the hair-bearing donor areas to create, for example, a low set hairline for a younger patient. The aesthetic appearance of this type of error in judgement produces quite disastrous results over time. As the original hairline recedes, isolated tufts of transplanted hair remain attached, producing a somewhat bizarre effect. At this stage, the options for revisionary surgery become virtually non-existent due to the lack of donor-hair.
Hair loss is a progressive phenomenon which causes rapid shedding between 20 and 40 years old and continues into old age. Expert surgeons never promise miraculous cures; they recommend the best treatment based on the extent of hair loss, and the condition and supply of donor-hair, as well as hair colour and hair type. Darker hair, for example, creates a more noticeable contrast with the underlying skin, emphasising thinning areas. Curly or wavy hair, on the other hand, provide better coverage.
Steps to follow before undergoing Hair Replacement Surgery:
- The first and most important piece of advice is to arrange consultations with different surgeons to fully understand and evaluate all of the hair transplant surgery options available. Hair transplant surgery is a highly commercial business, and it is easy to find clinics that lure customers with offers of free consultations. People seeking this type of surgery should steer clear of such offers as very often, low-cost solutions equate to poor results.
- While hair transplant is a relatively standard procedure, patients should enquire about the surgeon’s experience and the safety standards of the clinic. It is best to avoid low-cost surgery options performed in unaccredited clinics and opt for more expensive but superior quality solutions such as operating theatres in nursing homes or accredited day surgery clinics.
- Ensure that a qualified anaesthetist is present throughout the procedure.
- The surgeon should outline clearly the benefits of hair transplant surgery, as well as the risks and complications involved. Avoid choosing a surgeon who portrays hair replacement surgery as straightforward and risk-free.
- Avoid the hype of offers which promise incredible results in just one session. While the number of transplanted hairs is an important factor, two or three sessions spaced several months apart achieve much better results.
Lastly, consider the costs involved: the average cost for one hair transplant session in an accredited-facility (with a qualified anaesthetist) costs between 3,500 euros and 4,500 euros.