When he describes the state of hair restoration today, Atlanta-area plastic surgeon Dr. Keith Jeffords doesn't just talk about the wonders of modern follicle transplants. He has another message too: Your scalp won't have to pay the price.
"There's new technology, new devices, new ways to do this that are less painful and less invasive but still satisfactory," says Jeffords, M.D., D.D.S. "No one goes to get their gallbladder out with a 12-inch scar like they used to. That's what we should be doing: We shouldn't leave a 12-inch scar on the back of somebody's head."
Dr. Jeffords, who's in private practice in Smyrna, Ga., spoke about adding hair restoration to plastic surgery practices at Plastic Surgery The Meeting 2016, the annual gathering of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In a conversation with Cosmetic Surgery Times, he talked about technological advances, competitive advantages for plastic surgeons and the market for reconstructive hair restoration.
Restoration Technology Changes the Game
Years ago, Dr. Jeffords refused to get a hair transplant himself because he didn't want to be sidelined from working. Why? Because he wouldn't be able to perform surgery for several weeks in order to prevent the hair-grafting scar from widening, which would happen by moving his head during procedures.
Technological advances have since allowed Dr. Jeffords to undergo two hair transplants. "Follicular unit extraction doesn't create a scar," he says. "Instead, you remove a follicle at a time to reconstruct the hair line."
Now, new automated follicle removal devices allow physicians to harvest 600 to 1,000 grafts per hour, he says. "I just did a 3,000-graft case, and finished harvesting in 2.5 hours," he says. "It's much quicker, much safer, with no scars."
The new grafting technology can even allow scar revision procedures, Dr. Jeffords says, such as graft hairs into scars. It's even possible to use the grafting devices to improve the appearance of scars without adding hair. "If you have a white scar that shows through dark hair, you can make holes in that scar so it will revascularize, turning a white scar into a flesh-colored scar."
Plastic Surgeons Can Stand Apart
While there's plenty of competition from chain clinics that specialize in hair restoration, Dr. Jeffords says plastic surgeons have a major role to play because of their expertise. "If a consumer knows that a plastic surgeon is doing hair restoration, they'll prefer them over someone who doesn't list their credentials," he says.
And a plastic surgeon shouldn't find hair restoration to be a huge challenge, he says. "If a plastic surgeon wants to do hair, it's an extension of what we already do," he says. "I do brow lifts almost every day. I'm cutting in scars. I'm moving hair around. We do the same kinds of things all the time."
Making a Difference for Those in Need
Not every hair restoration patient is an adult who's balding. Through referrals from other physicians, Dr. Jeffords has become a go-to hair restoration specialist for people of all ages who have lost hair due to surgery scars and devastating burns.
Dr. Jeffords recalls meeting a 12-year-old boy who'd suffered severe burns and hoped to get his eyebrows restored: "The little boy came out to see us, and we talked to him and his parents. He was nervous since he'd been through hell with burn surgery. But he got his nerve up, and they let him call us back to say he wanted to do this."
When it came time for the surgery, Dr. Jeffords recalls, "We made it a big day for him with his favorite food, and we brought him toys and videos. He was really brave and he did a great job. We made him very secure. That's the nurturing business that plastic surgeons are in."
While this kind of success is possible, Dr. Jeffords says it's not likely that a plastic surgeon will be able to turn reconstructive hair restoration into a main line of work. Still, he says, "It's an extension of what hair restoration can be."
Disclosure: Dr. Jeffords has a speaker relationship with NeoGraft.