Procedure Description: In a hair transplant, the doctor removes hair follicles from a different part of the body and grafts them onto the area of balding or thinning. Micrografts (grafts of 2 to 3 hairs) and minigrafts (grafts of 4 or more hairs) are frequently placed just behind the hairline to build up hair density.
During the procedure, strips or patches of hair are taken from the back of the head. Hair from this area is less likely to thin, regardless of where it is transplanted. Hair removal from this area is also virtually undetectable. As much as half of the hair in this area can be taken without producing a noticeable difference. The removed patches, or strips, are cut into smaller pieces, which are then “planted” in the balding area. This transplanted hair continues to grow just as it did before. It will not thin or die unless hair in the region of the head from which it was taken also thins or dies. There are two common methods used for removing hair to be transplanted.
Hair can be removed in small circular areas (plugs), each containing between eight and twelve hairs. Or, hair may be removed in long strips along the sides or near the bottom of the hairline. The advantage of the second method is that it provides the physician with more hair to cut and mold into different-sized plugs and/or grafts. Thousands of grafts can be created from one strip of hair, each containing as few as 1 to 2 hairs.
Next, incisions slightly smaller than the plugs are made in the balding area. For grafts, even smaller incisions are made with a tiny scalpel or needle. Your doctor may use a laser to make these tiny cuts. (Despite marketing claims, using a laser in this situation has no special advantage over making incisions.) The plugs/grafts are carefully spaced in order to allow adequate blood supply and produce a natural angle, growth direction and appearance.
Length of Procedure: Most doctors perform more than one session of transplanting to achieve the best results. Each transplanting session takes between two and four hours.
Recovery: During the first two or three days following the procedure, there may be some discomfort in both the area that hair was taken from, as well as the area of the transplant. Mild headache, swelling and bruising around the eyes are common. Bandages are usually applied after the procedure and should be left in place overnight. The sutures are removed about 10 days after the operation. It is common for medical staff to shampoo the hair the first time after the procedure, and your doctor will give you instructions regarding hair grooming during your recovery. Some scabbing usually occurs in both areas, and should disappear within about 8 to 10 days. Some numbness may also occur, and could last for up to 2 to 3 months. There is a small risk of the plugs/grafts coming out, so you should avoid vigorous or strenuous exercise until scabs have completely healed.
Other than avoiding vigorous exercise, most people are able to return to their normal routine the day after the procedure. About two days after the procedure, the hair from the graft will begin to fall out, and hair re-growth may be thinner for several months. This is normal, and is caused by the brief period of diminished blood supply that occurs during the procedure.
Risks: Complications are usually minor when a hair transplant is performed by a physician with experience in performing hair transplants. You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following your doctor's instructions both before and after the procedure. You should be aware that scarring may occur on the graft sites. However, most scars are small and are covered up by growing hair. Infection can occur in the grafted areas. Your physician may decide to prescribe antibiotics before the procedure, as a precaution, or afterward if infection occurs.
Results: During the first month and a half, little or no new hair will grow in. However, within three months of the operation, new hair will begin to sprout in the grafts. After another three months, the procedure may be repeated to fill in spaces between the grafts, for an even fuller, thicker head of hair.
Because the plugs and grafts are taken from areas where hair is strong and healthy, transplants should continue to grow throughout an individual’s lifetime. While it’s normal for some of the grafts not to take, most people are pleased with the results of their hair transplant.
Estimated Cost: Generally, hair transplant costs can range anywhere from $4000 to $15,000. The cost of your hair transplant depends mostly on how many grafts you need, and/or how many sessions you need to complete them.