A hair transplant, which involves moving hair from one place to another on your head, can be done in a number of ways. The most common method is grafting. To be a good candidate, you must have thicker sections of hair on your head. Permanent hair loss can occur for a number of reasons, including types of alopecia.
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that transfers hair to balding or thinning areas of the scalp. Also referred to as hair restoration or hair replacement, it is usually intended for people who have already tried other hair loss treatments. Dermatologists (skin specialists) or plastic surgeons (specialists in reconstructive procedures) perform hair transplants.
How is a hair transplant performed?
The healthcare provider takes small pieces of skin or grafts from areas of the body that contain healthy hair. Health care providers call this area the donor site. It’s usually at the back of your scalp, on your head, where the hair is thickest. The doctor moves the grafts to the hairless area of the scalp. Once the transplanted skin has healed, the hair should continue to grow.
What conditions does hair restoration surgery treat?
There are several reasons why you might lose your hair. Maybe sometimes hair loss is temporary, but it can be permanent. Hair implants can help with permanent hair loss caused by:
- Alopecia areata. It is an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles.
- Androgenetic alopecia or hair loss.
- Thyroid disease or hormonal imbalances.
- Traumatic injuries or burns.
Who is a candidate for hair replacement?
You may be a person for hair replacement surgery if you:
- Are healthy.
- Have realistic expectations about hair replacement results.
- Do you still have areas of dense hair growth on your scalp?
What types of hair transplants are there?
There are several ways to perform a hair transplant, including:
- Reduction of the scalp.
- flap surgery.
- tissue expansion.
How is the transplant performed?
Hair transplantation is the most common type of hair transplantation. A healthcare provider cuts off tiny pieces of scalp containing healthy hair. Sometimes they use a small round awl to remove the skin, which contains around 10-15 hairs. People called these grafts “hair plugs”. Micrografts contain one or two hairs.
The process can take several hours. Most patients remain awake during the surgery but are given medication to numb the scalp. Depending on how much hair your supplier needs to move, you may need multiple procedures. Your scalp will need a few months to heal between procedures.
How does scalp reduction work?
Providers also call for the reduction of the scalp alopecia. Through this procedure, a surgeon removes a small area of bald skin from the scalp. They loosen the nearby skin with hair and pull it over the bald spot. Then they sew it in place.
Scalp reduction is ideal for bald spots on the top and back of the head. These sections are usually surrounded by hairy skin. Sometimes providers make use of scalp reduction and hair implants together to reach full coverage. As with transplantation, scalp reduction usually only requires numbing medication on the scalp. It means you don’t need general anesthesia.
How is flap surgery performed?
If you have large bald areas near the front of your scalp, your surgeon may recommend flap surgery. Flapplasty is performed in several phases over a few weeks. The surgeon makes shallow incisions on three sides of the donor site. The fourth side remains attached and retains its original blood supply. This technique helps the surgeon cut the flap and lift it over the bald areas. A flap operation requires general anesthesia.
How does tissue expansion occur?
If you have baldness or scalp disfigurement from burns, your doctor may perform tissue expansion surgery. Tissue expansion requires general anesthesia and involves several steps:
A reconstructive surgeon places an implant under the scalp where the hair is still present. Designed like a balloon, they call it a tissue expander.
The expander is inflated gradually over several weeks to stretch the skin.
The surgeon performs a second procedure to cover the bald area with stretched skin.
What are the risks of a hair transplant?
Like any surgery, a hair transplant comes with risks. These include:
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia.
- Excessive blood loss.
- Graft or valve failure.
- Loss of feeling in your scalp.
What are the side effects of hair transplantation?
Hair transplant side effects are usually temporary. You may notice the following issues on your scalp, at the donor site, or where the new hair is:
- crust or scab.
- loss of feeling
- pain or throbbing.
What Are the Benefits of Hair Restoration?
- Potential hair restoration benefits include:
- Fuller hair with fewer bald spots.
- Improved self-esteem.
- Solution for permanent hair loss.
What is the recovery process after hair transplantation?
Most hair transplants are outpatient surgeries, which means you can go home the same day of the procedure. Your recovery process depends on the type of transplant you have. In the days following surgery, you may be able to:
Day 1: Remove bandages.
Day 2: wash your hair.
Days 3-5: Return to work and begin light activities.
After 10 days: Remove the stitches (to be done by your healthcare professional).
After 3 weeks: Resume exercise or sport.
How long does the result of hair transplantation last?
It can take up to a year to see the full results of a hair transplant. The transplanted hair may fall out as the flap or graft heals. It’s normal. The hair should grow back. You may need several “touched up” hair transplants to achieve a natural-looking result.
When should I see my doctor for hair transplantation?
After surgery, you will likely have several follow-up visits with your doctor. They ensure that your scalp heals well. However, contact your provider immediately if you experience any of the following issues:
- A fever that won’t go away.
- Excessive bleeding from your scalp.
- Intense redness or pain on your scalp.
- Signs of infection such as yellow or green pus oozing from cuts on your scalp.
A note from the Cleveland Clinic
A hair transplant can be an option if other hair growth treatments have not worked for you. There are many different hair transplant techniques. It is therefore important to work with a healthcare provider to choose the procedure that best suits your goals. Look for a qualified professional with experience in hair loss and hair restoration. They are the only ones who have to do a transplant. You should also consider the practical aspects of hair transplantation. Think of the cost and healing time between treatments.