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Hair Transplant Surgery: Techniques, Risks and Cost

There is little doubt that hair transplantation provides the most authentic-looking and the most permanent results of all hair restoration methods. But it is also the most expensive and the most painful method of restoring lost hair. Hair transplantation involves moving the patient’s own healthy hair follicles from the donor area (usually from the back of the scalp) to the balding area. It is also possible to transplant hair follicles from other parts of the body (e.g. breast) to the scalp, but it is impossible to use another person as a donor for hair follicles. Besides treating male pattern baldness and hair loss due to burns, hair transplant surgery is also commonly used to restore eyelashes and eyebrows.

Types of Hair Transplant Surgery, their Pros and Cons

The most commonly used technique today is follicular unit transplantation (FUT), which consists in implanting individual hair follicles (in the past grafts, consisting of several hair follicles, were used) into tiny incisions in the bald area of the scalp. There are two major techniques used to harvest hair follicles: strip method and follicular unit extraction (FUE). You may find names of various other procedures as nearly every hair transplant clinic uses their own proprietary technology. But the principal difference between the harvesting techniques is that strip method uses a long narrow strip of scalp extracted from the back of the head that is then dissected into individual follicle grafts under microscopes whereas the follicular unit extraction is used to harvest individual follicles that only need trimming (removing excess skin tissue and fat) before they can be implanted into tiny needle poke-holes in the bald area of the scalp.

Each type of harvesting technology has its advantages and disadvantages. Strip harvesting is less expensive and faster and has higher yields but it leaves the patient with linear scar at the back of their head, which may cause scalp tension in the future. The follicular unit extraction leaves behind only tiny scars from punctures that are only visible when the patient shaves their head but many surgeons argue that its yields are significantly lower than with strip harvesting due to transacting and destroying many of the donor follicles. The main limitation of FUE is the number of implants that can be harvested during one session. In general, strip technique is recommended to male patients with advanced hair loss whereas FUE is more suitable for covering smaller areas and for female hair loss sufferers.

Who is a Good Candidate for Hair Transplantation?

Hair transplantation is a type of cosmetic surgery performed under local anaesthesia in a clinic or doctor’s office. Unfortunately, not everyone is a good candidate for hair surgery. The patient must be generally healthy and must have sufficient amount of hair in the donor area, flexible scalp and should not be too young. Patients with diffuse balding (especially women) and young patients whose balding pattern has not yet stabilised are typically not considered to be suitable candidates for hair transplantation.

Potential Risks and Complications of Hair Surgery

Perhaps the biggest risk of hair transplant surgery is that the patient will not like the result. You should keep in mind that the change is permanent and you would need another hair transplant session to correct it. Other risks associates with hair transplant surgery include post-surgery shock loss affecting the existing and implanted hair follicles (telogen effluvium), poor growth from the implanted follicles due to their transaction, inflammation of implanted hair follicles, bleeding, scarring and long healing process, scalp numbness and tension and progression of hair loss in areas adjacent to the area where follicles were implanted, leading to unnatural balding patterns. In addition, patients with female pattern baldness may gradually lose their transplanted hair because with diffuse balding there is no certainty that the donor follicles will be resistant to the harmful effects of DHT. Patients will have to continue with their hair loss treatment after surgery to prevent further loss of hair (which would require another hair transplant session). Also, they may not be able to shave their head in the future because of many tiny scars left behind after extracted follicles.

Cost of Hair Transplant Surgery

When it comes to estimating the cost of hair transplant surgery, the clinic you choose, the doctor’s reputation, the harvesting technique used and the extent of surgery (the number of graft needed) will be the main determining factors. The price of hair transplant surgery is typically quoted in dollars per graft and it can vary anywhere between 2 and 12 dollars per graft, so the total cost might be between 3.000 and 20.000 dollars for one session. Keep in mind that it is an aesthetic procedure and, therefore, not covered by the health insurance. If you wish to save on costs, you may need to travel thousands of kilometres to countries such as India or Thailand and combine hair transplant surgery with a vacation abroad.

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