Unlike other topical treatments used for combating baldness or alopecia, a hair transplant procedure offers hope for those facing hair loss conditions, with the most permanent and reliable solutions urgently required. When it comes to hair loss treatments, the only way to bid balding issues goodbye is to opt for a hair transplant procedure. Once the surgeon is done with the impacted regions, you don’t even have to worry about bald spots or receding hairlines since surgery effectively eliminates all that. Statistics also show that hair transplant procedures come with high success rates.
Another benefit of hair transplant procedures is that minimal maintenance is required on areas worked on post the procedure. This is also because hair following the transplant has the same quality as regular hair so one does not need special chemicals or shampoos for proper density maintenance. Hair transplant is also a one-time procedure so one does not have to visit the doctor again and again. Some of the biggest benefits of this well-known hair restoration treatment are the cost-efficacy and the lack of need to go for additional visits.
Hair Transplant: Know More
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A hair transplant refers to a procedure where dermatological or plastic surgeons move hair to areas of the head suffering from baldness. The surgeon usually moves hair from the side or back of the head to the top or front. Hair transplant usually takes place in medical offices under local anesthesia.
One of the most well-known medical reasons for a hair transplant is patterned baldness and lack of healthy growth. While this is influenced by genes, there are a lot of other factors that also come into play like stress, diet, illness, hormonal imbalance or even medicines. There are basically two different types of transplant procedures namely:
- Slit grafts
Slit grafts contain 4-10 hairs per graft. Micrografts, on the other hand, comes with 1 to 2 hairs in a graft depending on the time of coverage needed. Receiving a hair transplant improves self-confidence and appearance.
Some medical reasons for hair transplant include male patterned baldness, thinning hair, or burn or scalp injury induced hair loss. However, hair replacement is not the best option for those with a widespread pattern of hair loss across the scalp, those who lack enough donor hair sites to remove hair for transplant, individuals with keloid scars post an injury or surgery whereby fibrous, thick scars are obscuring bald areas. Additionally, hair transplant is also not possible on account of medication like chemotherapy.
Hair Transplant Procedure
Once the scalp is completely cleaned, the surgeon uses a thin, small needle to numb the head area with local anesthesia. Two main techniques for obtaining follicles for transplantation are FUE and FUT.
Follicular Unit Transplantation/ FUT
This is a highly advanced hair transplantation technique where the pattern of naturally growing hair is replicated. It is an ideal choice for individuals with large bald areas on their head. The procedure essentially involves removing entire strips of hair from donor areas where hair fall is less and there is thick hair growth. The area from which the strip is taken undergoes a suture leaving a linear scalp scar. The strip containing the follicles is divided into grafts.
The follicular units contain sebaceous or oil glands, nerves, tiny muscles, and fine or vellus hairs. 1000s of these follicular grafts are placed onto bald areas of the individual’s scalp. This is known as the recipient area in a session. The grafts facilitate natural hair growth that follows a natural pattern for growth, showing no signs of surgery.
In this form of hair transplant, the surgeon uses a scalpel to remove strips of scalp skin from the head’s back. The inclusion is a few inches long. This is closed using stitches. The surgeon then separates the removed portion of the scalp in smaller sections using a sharp surgical knife and a magnifying lens. When these are implanted, natural looking hair growth is the outcome.
Follicular Unit Extraction/FUE
As against the FUT procedure followed, FUE or Follicular Unit Extraction is a hair transplant method where doctors extract hair’s follicular units, from the donor areas of the head, one at a time. Doctors use a tiny microneedle, that punches tiny incision around the hair follicle prior to extraction. Each unit in this procedure can range across 1-4 hairs. The 1-4 hair groupings are referred to as follicular unit grafts. These are transplanted into balding areas of the head. This procedure does not require an incision in the donor area. The FUE method is recommended for patients with short hair, tight scalps or those undergoing the FUT procedure without little success.
In FUE/follicular unit extraction, hair follicles are cut out directly from the back of the head through tiny punch incisions. The surgeon makes small holes with a needle or blade in the scalp area that receives the hair transplant. They place hairs gently in these holes. During a single treatment session, surgeons can transplant hundreds or thousands of hairs. Post the graft, gauze or bandages covering the scalp for a couple of days. A hair transplant session using this procedure takes 4 or more hours. The stitches are removed 10 days post the surgery. Three to four sessions may be required to achieve full growth. Sessions may be spaced apart several months to allow transplants to heal.
What Happens After a Hair Transplant?
The scalp remains site, and one may need to take pain medicine as well as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the risk of swelling and infection. Most individuals can return to work after surgery in just one week. It is normal for transplanted hair to fall out 2-3 weeks post the procedure. This paves the way for new hair growth in 8-12 months post the surgery. Doctors may also prescribe minoxidil or finasteride to improve hair regrowth and slow down or stop future hair loss.
Medical Reasons for a Hair Transplant
Hair transplant is essentially a method of surgery which is used to treat different levels of androgenic alopecia in women and men. It is essentially a form of surgery in which balding areas are covered with hair. Unlike other organ transplant procedures, hair transplant requires no external donor. It is common to lose up 100 strands of hair per day. To explore the causes of hair loss over and above this, you may need to visit a trichologist or endocrinologist or general specialist.
The common causes of hair loss range across the following
#1 Physical Stress
Physical stress due to an accident, injuries, illness, and overwork or even emotional disorders, surgery and childbirth can cause excessive hair loss. It is termed as telogen effluvium.
#2 Fertility Medicines
Use of birth control pills can also pose a serious risk to the quality and volume of hair.
#3 Hormonal Imbalances
Pregnancy and related hormonal imbalance can also exacerbate hair loss.
#4 Scalp Infections
Another cause of hair loss is scalp infections like fungal infections or ringworm.
#5 Poor Diet
Low protein intake and poor diet are also prime factors leading to hair loss and the need for a hair transplant. This is because hair strands are exclusively made of a protein called keratin.
#6 Too Much Hair Styling and Coloring
Excessive hair treatments, too much styling, coloring and the use of strong chemicals for the hair can also trigger hair loss and raise the need for a transplant.
#7 Genetic Baldness
Genetic factors can also contribute to hair loss and thinning. This is where the need for hair transplants is growing. Male pattern baldness can be caused by genetic factors in association with hormonal issues. Female pattern baldness is caused due to family genes.
#8 Excessive Vitamin A Supplementation
Hair transplants may also be required for those facing hair loss on account of excessive vitamin A supplementation.
#9 Medical Conditions
Conditions such as anemia and polycystic ovary syndrome, eating and thyroid problems can also trigger hair loss and the need for a transplant. From trichotillomania to natural aging, a host of medical conditions trigger hair loss.
#10 Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B deficiency in the body also leads to hair thinning and loss causing hair transplants to be an obvious solution.
#11 Weight Loss
Sudden weight loss on account of physical trauma or poor diet can also be a major problem for triggering hair loss. This can also lead to the need for a hair transplant.
#12 Damage to Hair
Burns and X-rays can also cause temporary and sudden hair loss and increase the need for a hair transplant.
#13 Taking Certain Medicines
Medicines like antidepressants and blood thinners can also pave the way for hair loss and the need for a hair transplant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the factors that determine the cost of a transplant?
Here, the factors that influence the cost of hair transplant are the place you get it done, who carries out the procedure and the size of the area required for treating. For example, if you need to resolve hair thinning or receding hairline, the cost is less. If there is advanced baldness, larger and costlier procedures are needed.
Q. Does the procedure lead to pain?
There is no pain with this surgery, though there is a little discomfort. It is important to have anesthetic, so there’s not even mild discomfort.
Q. Is there any scarring?
Follicular unit grafting requires small incisions to the recipient zone. Any resultant scarring is invisible generally. There’s also a small scar at the back of the scalp from the donor area, though it is hidden under existing hair.
Q. How long does it take before growth signs are visible?
Hair growth is a gradual process, even in individuals who don’t undergo hair loss. Once the procedure is over, small signs of growth can occur within 3-4 months as per the hair’s natural growing cycles. As the hair starts to grow, full effects will take around 8 months.
Q. Are the results permanent?
Hair follicles that are transplanted are resistant to baldness, so they continue to grow over the lifetime. One still notices hair loss on different head areas and may explore the option of another transplant, moving ahead.
Q. When is the next hair transplant required?
This depends on the individual. A useful approach is to build a solid foundation beyond surgery by working on hair loss using medicines like finasteride. This gives the hair a sense of stability and guards against future losses. Hair loss is progressive, so it is important to keep an eye on the long term while considering transplants.
Q. How long does it take to recover from a hair transplant?
Hair transplants can be easy to recover from. You can be on the road to recovery in a matter of days. Avoid overexertion and activities for at least 10 days.
Q. What is shock loss?
When work is carried out in areas where existing hair is in place, losing some of these hairs through shock loss is possible. This is more so if hair is weak and hairlines are receding.
Q. Are there some medical conditions which make hair transplants tough?
A small number of patients may not qualify for hair transplants due to medical reasons or conditions. Alopecia tests and DNA analyses can safeguard you against this. There are also stress tests which can be used to evaluate if hair transplants are tough. Diffusing alopecia is one condition which also needs to be considered. Hair loss can be genetic or due to scalp problems or general health conditions which include hormonal, metabolic or nutritional problems.
If hair loss is diffuse, transplants may be tough. Patients with active inflammation on scalp caused by bacteria or fungi namely dermatitis may not be good candidates for a hair transplant either. Those taking certain medications known as cytostatic drugs also cannot opt for hair transplants of some kinds. Certain types of hair loss associated with autoimmune conditions like alopecia totalis/Universalis are also immune to hair transplants.
Donor areas with certain characteristics like low density at 70 hairs per cm2 or less and 15 percent or more of the hair in the telogen phase, where follicles are weaker also make hair transplants tougher. Alopecia areata or immune type of loss of hair also progresses without stabilization. Keloid scar formation is yet another problem.
Patients suffering from connective tissue diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and scleroderma are also not candidates for hair transplant. Hair thinning or loss aggravated by severe or chronic heart, renal and/or hepatic failure is also not curable through a transplant. Other conditions like lichen and psoriasis which impede hair growth also make transplants impossible.
So, hair transplants are a permanent solution to a host of hair loss conditions due to medical reasons. But while hair transplants are an effective method of combating a receding hairline or thinning hair, it is important to note the precautions and proceed with the correct knowledge about the procedures. After all, being prepared is the key to a successful hair transplant and naturally strong, dense and voluminous hair post the surgical procedure.