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Hair Transplants

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Of the many hair loss solutions, perhaps the most effective is surgical hair restoration. There are several hair replacement procedures that men and women can choose from, including hair transplants and permanent hair replacement. The method of hair restoration used will depend on the degree of hair loss and the individual circumstances of each patient. Medical hair restoration provides a predictable and lasting solution to hair loss. Below you will find information on various surgical hair replacement techniques and hair loss solutions.

Hair Transplant Techniques

There are a variety of surgical hair loss remedies available. The procedures and treatment options can achieve varying degrees of permanent hair replacement depending on the unique condition of each patient. If surgical hair loss solutions are not right for a patient due to hair transplant costs, there are also non-surgical hair loss treatments available that may be more suitable alternatives.

Hair transplants involve the removal of small portions of hair-bearing scalp from the sides or back of the head. These sections of scalp are then transplanted to the balding areas of a patient's scalp. Hair transplants can be an effective technique for permanent hair replacement and are among the most dependable hair loss solutions.

The goal of hair transplant surgery is to relocate follicles from the donor area to the bald area of the scalp. In the early days of hair transplant surgery, large clusters of hair and follicles were relocated, usually resulting in an unnatural look. However, the latest microsurgery techniques allow surgeons to relocate very small groups of follicles - sometimes just a single follicle - to create a hair growth pattern similar to that of a young scalp. These micrografts, also known as follicular unit hair grafts, are fundamental to creating a truly natural looking head of hair. 

Harvesting - Size of the Donor Area

The latest hair transplantation surgery techniques involve removing a donor strip of hair-bearing scalp from the back of the head. The surgeon will determine how large the donor area should be, according to the amount of hair to be transplanted. The donor area is carefully trimmed close to the scalp and then surgically removed under local anesthetic. The scalp is closed using surgical sutures.

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

Advances in the size and placement of hair grafts are what make modern hair transplants so natural looking. This is especially important for frontal hair transplants, to avoid the unnatural look of an abrupt change from bare skin to dense hair. The hair transplant centers in our national network use a technique known as follicular unit hair transplantation. Hair usually grows in groups of from one to four hairs, known as follicular units. The micrografts used by our surgeons mimic this natural pattern and are known as follicular unit hair grafts. Once hair transplant surgery has been completed and the scalp has recovered, follicular unit hair grafts will grow out normally.

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)

Specially trained lab technicians dissect the tissue of a harvested donor strip under the microscope and separate follicular unit hair grafts for transplantation. This is known as follicular unit extraction. Each follicular unit hair graft that results consists of a thin sliver of scalp tissue, which contains miniscule blood vessels and the hair follicle, with about a millimeter of hair protruding from the original skin surface.

Transplanting the Donor Hair

After being removed from the back of the scalp, the donor strip is surgically dissected into follicular units - small tissue grafts sprouting one to four hairs from a single hair follicle. Tiny incisions are made in the recipient region, and the follicular units are carefully inserted. The new hair follicles are distributed so that, over the course of the surgical hair restoration procedure, the balding areas of the scalp will gradually be covered.

In order to ensure a natural look from medical hair restoration, good hair transplant density is essential. In the early days of medical hair restoration, large clumps of follicles were placed in holes punched in the scalp. The results of these early attempts at surgical hair restoration were alternating areas of dense and thin hair. As techniques and technology have improved, progressively smaller groups of follicles have been transplanted through even smaller incisions. The result is more uniform hair transplant density, contributing to a more natural looking hair pattern.

Hair Transplant Results

One of several medications may be suggested by your surgeon for use after hair transplant surgery. The GraftCyte® line is produced by a company that specializes in wound therapy medications and includes moist dressing, shampoo, and conditioner. Oral anti-baldness medications such as finasteride and topical preparations such as minoxidil are often recommended to supplement hair transplant surgery. Your surgeon will evaluate your case and recommend an appropriate post-surgical regimen to achieve the best possible results.

Hair Transplant Recovery

After all of the micrografts have been placed in the scalp, the hair transplantation patient will have stubble in the transplant areas as well as some minor scabbing. The affected scalp should heal rapidly, as should the sutured incision from the donor area. The transplanted hair will fall out after a few weeks, as the hair goes into the resting phase initially. In several months, the hair will start its growing phase again, and the hair should grow at a normal rate. Follicles transplanted during surgical hair restoration are not usually sensitive to the same biological influences as the original follicles in the balding area of the scalp and should therefore produce hair just as they did in the donor area.

Scalp Reduction Surgery

Scalp reduction is a type of hair replacement surgery that involves the removal of a bald section of the scalp. The remaining portions of the scalp are then carefully drawn together like a curtain and sutured to close the incision. Scalp reduction is often combined with micrografting techniques to conceal any scarring and fill in any additional balding or thinning areas.

Good candidates for scalp reduction surgery are those with an adequate amount of hair and healthy follicles surrounding the perimeter of the bald area. When performing scalp reduction surgery, the surgeon must be careful to ensure that the scalp is not pulled too tightly, leading to an unnatural result. Hair loss patients who do not have sufficient hair-bearing tissue to cover the excised portion of their scalp would need also to undergo scalp expansion or flap transplantation.

Patients experiencing male pattern baldness, alopecia, and burn-related hair loss have all been able to achieve good results with this hair loss remedy. A consultation with a surgical hair replacement specialist is necessary to determine whether scalp reduction surgery or another transplantation procedure is right for you.

Scalp Expansion

Some patients do not have enough hair-bearing scalp tissue to complete scalp reduction surgery with good results. In these cases, the surgeon may opt to perform scalp expansion, during which tissue expanders are placed beneath the scalp and slowly inflated, stretching the skin to increase the amount of available hair-bearing tissue for the surgery. The number of expanders and the amount of time they are left in will depend upon the extent, pattern, and location of the hair loss. Once the scalp is adequately expanded, the surgeon can perform scalp reduction surgery, using the excess scalp tissue to provide sufficient coverage for the excised area of scalp tissue.

Suitable candidates for scalp expansion have good hair density around the bald area and good skin elasticity. Burn victims and other hair loss patients challenged by reduced skin elasticity or extensive baldness may be encouraged to undergo flap surgery or other surgical hair loss remedies as an alternative option.

If you are suffering from hair loss and searching for a remedy, a hair replacement specialist can inform you of the many treatment options available. DocShop can connect you with a qualified surgeon in your area whose experience and results you can trust.

Flap Surgery

Flap surgery provides hair loss patients with another hair replacement option. Hair restoration flap surgery utilizes a transplanted flap or flaps of hair-bearing tissue to restore hair in bald areas of scalp. After removing the bald portion of scalp during scalp reduction, the surgeon transplants either a pedicle flap or free flap of the patient's own tissue to restore hair to the area. Once positioned, the flap is then carefully reattached to a vascular supply using microsurgical techniques and then sutured to the surrounding scalp. Scalp expansion techniques may be used to increase the amount of available tissue for transplantation.

The type of flap used to complete this procedure will depend upon the condition of the available tissue. Pedicle flaps, which are used in the majority of flap transplant procedures, still have the main stem of the skin's vascular framework attached to the tissue, whereas free flaps contain more superficial veins and arteries. Both types of flaps can yield good results; however, pedicle flaps have the best chance of survival after transplantation.

In order to achieve good results with flap surgery, the donor site must have a healthy blood supply, good tissue quality, and adequate hair density. If blood supply and tissue quality is poor, follicle micrografting may be the best choice for restoring hair to bald spots. Flap surgery has been a successful hair loss remedy for patients with both genetic and acquired hair loss.

Candidates for Hair Loss Transplants

Thanks to advances in surgical techniques, hair replacement can be made permanent with hair transplant surgery, which is becoming increasingly popular as an effective hair restoration procedure. Today, hair transplants look very natural, because the surgeon can better recreate the appearance of a more youthful scalp. Hair transplant specialists can even perform a revisional operation for those who are unhappy with the results of a previous hair transplant surgery. Below you will find information on what makes a good candidate for hair transplant surgery

General Requirements

  • Adequate donor hair: Candidates for a permanent hair replacement transplant include men and women who have an adequate amount of hair in the donor area of the scalp. For most male patients, this is the back and sides of the scalp, areas in which most men keep their hair as the top and front of the scalp go bald. 
  • Age: A permanent hair replacement transplant is best suited to men 40 years of age or older. The unpredictable nature of hair growth patterns in younger men, especially those under 30, usually makes them less suitable candidates. 
  • Good health: Ideal hair transplant candidates should be in relatively good health and not smoke cigarettes.
  • Realistic expectations: Hair transplant candidates should have realistic expectations about the possible results of treatment, as well as the amount of time that it takes for hair regrowth to occur.

Risks & Benefits of Hair Replacement Surgery

For most patients, the risks of hair replacement surgery are insignificant and far outweighed by the potential benefits. During your pre-operative consultation, your doctor will discuss all facets of the procedure, including the potential side effects of a hair transplant, so that you can make an informed decision.

Improved Appearance

The most evident benefit of hair replacement surgery is that it gives the patient a more youthful appearance, which can have a positive influence on both business and social interactions. Hair loss, especially premature hair loss, can make people look older than they are.

Improved Self-Esteem

Along with an improved appearance, most hair replacement surgery patients achieve improved self-esteem. Most people try to resist aging, especially when the signs of aging seem to come prematurely. The ability to regain a more youthful appearance nearly always makes people feel better about themselves, which, in turn, can improve their outlook on life.

Potential Hair Transplant Problems

As with any surgery, there are risks involved with hair replacement surgery, primarily during the healing process. There is always a very slight chance of skin infection, which is usually easily treated. Other issues are more accurately characterized as a possible hair transplant problem, but these issues seldom qualify as major medical risks. During your consultation with a hair loss specialist, the possible side effects of specific hair transplant techniques will be discussed in greater detail.

Side Effects of Hair Transplants

One side effect that can be a hair transplant problem is numbness around the donor or recipient site. This lack of sensation is almost always temporary and should disappear within two or three months of hair replacement surgery. Although not a true medical risk, there is also a slight chance that the transplanted hair will not survive the procedure.

Hair Transplant Timeline

The following hair transplant timeline details the recovery period for patients who have undergone hair replacement surgery. Though the results may vary from patient to patient depending on the extent of the hair transplant, this timeline should cover the general course of growth and recovery for most patients. Approximately 24 hours after the hair transplant procedure, the patient will notice that small scabs will have formed on each of the grafts. This is normal, and they will usually be shed in about seven to ten days following hair replacement surgery. Approximately six to fifteen weeks after the procedure, the grafted hair should begin to grow at the normal hair growth rate of 1 cm each month.

Hair replacement surgery is a complicated procedure that may require several hair transplant sessions over a period of one to two years before the desired result is achieved. The fact is that hair transplant surgery has become a more involved and time-intensive procedure in order to ensure better results. The smaller groupings of follicles that enable a truly natural look necessarily take longer to harvest and longer to properly implant. Enduring a lengthier process is its own reward; modern hair transplantation produces consistently natural looking results.

Locate a Hair Transplant Surgeon

To learn if any of the surgical hair loss solutions or remedies listed above are right for you, it is important to speak with a skilled hair loss specialist about permanent hair replacement options. We encourage you to use DocShop to help you contact a hair restoration specialist near you.

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