What Is a Hair Transplant
The Surgical Approach to Hair Restoration
A hair transplant is a minor surgical procedure where healthy areas of hair and their roots are transplanted from the sides or back of the head (the donor area) to bald or balding areas of the scalp of the same person (the recipient area).
After the hair transplant, the hair grows permanently because it is taken from an area where the hair roots have never been programmed to fall.The hair transplant graft always retains the same characteristics as it did prior to the transplant procedure. It will even turn gray as you age. In the past the areas from which the hair had been taken were allowed to remain open and heal naturally, creating a pegboard effect in the donor area. Today’s hair transplant donor areas are sutured closed and heal with thin scars in most cases. Donor areas are chosen to match as best as possible the type of hair that should grow in the area being transplanted. For example, hairline hair is generally taken from lower sides where the hair is finer and will help feather the front.
Typical Hair Transplant donor area. Area is the same for Strip Transplants, Follicular Unit Extraction and Neograft procedures.
During a Hair Transplant a strip of hair containing a few hundred Follicular-Unit grafts to thousands of Follicular-Units are removed to be transplanted.
Sutures used after a Hair Transplant procedure to heal the donor area. Removal is usually 7-10 days post-Hair Transplant Surgery. Neograft Transplants and Follicular Unit Extraction do not require sutures to heal.
There are different methods of Hair Transplants
Does a Hair Transplant Hurt?
The answer is – it depends on your doctor’s technique and skill in numbing along with your own tolerance for any pain. Hair transplant patients are sometimes given the option for Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) while the local anesthesia is applied. The numbing process is usually the only discomfort you will feel during the transplant procedure, and lasts only a few minutes. A new computer assisted anesthesia delivery system called the WAND dramatically reduces any patient discomfort that may arise in the first few minutes of surgery. Many Hair Transplant Surgeons are now using this new system. Once numb, you may hear funny noises (the scalp conducts sound) but will feel no pain. Long-acting anesthesia helps to prevent the wear-off ache and makes the hair transplant very comfortable that same night.
When Will the Hair Grow?
All scalp hair grows in a growing phase (anagen) and in a resting phase (telogen). Every hair on our heads replaces itself every six years. Think of the resting phase as a three-month hibernation cycle where the follicle is alive under the skin but there is no cosmetic hair produced. After its three-month dormancy, the follicle once again produces a new cosmetic hair. Certain factors will throw growing hair prematurely into a resting phase. Any type of minor trauma, such as hair transplant surgery, will fool the follicle into an early three-month resting cycle. This does not differ from moving a flowering plant from one area of the soil to another.Plant roots survive, but may not survive the flower.. Transplanting hair temporarily interrupts blood supply and thus will cause the growing hair to shed. As such it’s not unusual for patients to call frantically saying that the transplant didn’t work because the hair fell out. In fact, the hair only temporarily falls out after the transplant and the root remains in a three-month resting phase. The new hair then begins to grow and will resume its old genetically programmed cycle. The smaller (or narrower) transplant grafts will grow quicker because they heal faster. But this is only thin frontal hair and the patient should assume then the best is yet to come. Sometimes your own hair may fall out after a hair transplant in areas around the transplanted grafts, this is called shock. Shock hair loss occurs when a graft or grafts are transplanted near existing hair, usually the thicker an area is and the closer the surgeon has to come to that area the more likely shock will occur. Not all patients experience this and if they do it’s usually mild and temporary. So to answer the question directly – new hair growth will start in two to four months in general. For some reason it starts quicker in the front than in the back (crown), and the more hair transplant sessions you have, the longer it takes for the subsequent transplanted hair to begin growing.
Is the Procedure Safe?
Part of interviewing your prospective Hair Transplant Surgeon should include questions about instruments and sterility. Your doctor should have a hospital-type autoclave (sterilizer) and should have special disposal systems for medical waste. The doctor and his technical staff should all have current Federal Occupational Safety Hazard Association (OSHA) certification and training. A hair transplant is a clean procedure (hair can’t be sterilized) but all instruments must be! Ask for a tour of your doctor’s lab and ask to speak to one or several of his assistants. Do not be shy here! We all want hair, but we want it safely.
Does the Transplant Hair Always Take and for How Long Will It Last?
It’s a common question like ” Hurt it? The answer is, if done properly by an experienced physician, it will generally always take and will grow for the rest of your life plus two weeks (hair and nails grow for two weeks after we depart). Remember, the hair lasts as long on the same person in the new area as it did where it came from. So if the donor area was selected properly, it will continue to grow in the previously bald sites.
Who Is a Candidate for Hair Transplant Surgery?
A good candidate is someone who is realistic about his or her goals based on their existing pattern of hair loss and remaining hair density. He or she understands that it will take time for the hair to grow after the transplant and is willing to undergo several sessions if necessary to achieve the desired result. Hair transplant surgery is an art as well as a science, and art takes time and work. If the patient is young, a good candidate will allow the hairline to be a bit higher (in case of extensive baldness occurring in later years) and will understand that future transplant sessions may be needed if further hair loss occurs. The doctor and the patient are a team. Both should be patient and available to work together to achieve the desired result. Knowing this makes for a good hair transplant candidate.
Are there different methods of Hair Transplants?
Yes, there are three main types of surgical hair restoration currently being used by Hair Transplant Surgeons. The Strip method of transplantation, Follicular Unit Extraction and Neograft. These procedures are described in detail here Follicular Hair Transplant & Neograft 2019