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Hair transplant

 

Definition

A hair transplant is a surgical procedure to improve baldness.

Description

During a hair transplant, a physician moves hairs from an area of thick growth to bald areas.

Most hair transplants are performed in an office setting under local anesthesia. You should only experience minimal pain. After thoroughly cleaning the scalp, the surgeon uses small needles to numb an area where there is normal hair growth on the back of the scalp. A portion of the hairy scalp is then removed with a scalpel and set aside. The scalp is sewn closed.

Small groups of hairs, or individual hairs, are separated out from the removed scalp using a magnifying lens and sharp blade. The area that will receive these healthy hairs (usually the front of the scalp) is cleaned and numbed with more small needles.

Finally, tiny holes are made in the front of the scalp. Healthy hairs are delicately placed in the holes. During a single treatment session, hundreds or even thousands of hairs may be transplanted.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Hair transplantation can significantly improve the appearance and self-confidence in patients who are balding. However, it is important to remember that this procedure cannot create new hair. It can only move the hair you already have from the back of the scalp to the front.

Most patients undergoing a hair transplant have male or female pattern baldness. Hair loss is on the front or top of the scalp. Patients must still have thick hair on the back or sides of the scalp to have enough hair follicles to move.

In some cases, patients with hair loss from lupus, injuries, or other medical problems may be treated with a hair transplant.

Risks

Risks from any surgical procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Other risks that can occur with this procedure:

  • Scarring
  • Unnatural-looking tufts of new hair growth (more common with older techniques)

It is possible that the transplanted hair won't look as good as you had desired.

Hair transplant patients should be healthy, or surgery is less likely to be safe and successful. Always discuss your risks and options with your physician before undergoing any elective surgery.

After the Procedure

Most modern hair transplants result in excellent hair growth within several months after the procedure. Often, however, more than one treatment session is needed to create the best-looking results.

The replaced hairs are usually permanent. No long-term care is necessary.

Outlook (Prognosis)

During the recovery period after surgery, the scalp is often very tender. You may need to take strong pain medications by mouth for several days.

You must wear a bulky surgical dressing, or sometimes a smaller dressing protected by a baseball cap, for at least a day or two. Some surgeons may also recommend several days of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs after surgery.

After this very brief recovery period, no special treatment is needed.


Review Date: 1/14/2009
Reviewed By: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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