There are a number of factors causing hair loss in a man or a woman, including aging, hormone changes, illness, burns, and a family history of baldness. In order to qualify for hair replacement surgery, a candidate must have a healthy growth of hair on the back and sides of the head. This hair is used for hair donor areas where grafts will be taken from. There are four main types of hair replacement methods: hair transplantation, tissue expansion, flap surgery, and scalp reduction.
Recommended Hair Replacement Methods
Many doctors and surgeons recommend both hair transplantation and tissue expansion as hair restoration methods.
Hair transplantation is a type of hair loss transplant that occurs when the surgeon removes small pieces of hair growth from the scalp from either the back or sides of the head. The grafts are relocated from their original locations to bald or thinning areas. These new hair follicles will grow hair since they are genetically resistant to creating bald skin.
Although the price for each skin graft drops based on the amount of skin grafts, the cost can range from $6,000 to $15,000. Hair transplantation can help counter hair loss; however there is the risk of bald patches forming. This is a common side effect of hair transplantation, but is only temporary.
Tissue expansion uses a tissue expander (typically a silicone balloon expander) inserted under a hair-bearing area located next to a bald area. This expander causes the hair-bearing area’s skin to grow new skin cells, stretch, and grow. After the new cells are grown, another operation places the newly expanded skin over the bald spot.
Tissue expansion is typically less expensive than hair transplantation with prices ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. The biggest risk for those undergoing tissue expansion lies in that the silicone expander may leak, which can cause the saline solution to leak out under the skin. Although the hair will grow, hair loss is not stopped and you can continue to lose hair.
Hair Replacement Methods to be Wary Of
Both flap surgery and scalp reductions are not typically recommended as hair replacement methods to be considered.
Flap surgery is a hair restoration technique used for covering large, balding areas of the skin. A portion of the bald area is removed during surgery and a flap of hair-bearing skin is placed over the bald area. This procedure typically occurs in three different stages; removing the balding skin, removing flesh from the hairline, and replacing the second flap of skin. Flap surgery can create dense hair in a short amount of time, but is inferior compared to follicular grafting.
Furthermore, flap surgery is not effective on all types of balding. It works best on those balding where the top of the head is bald, but the back and sides of the scalp is still growing hair. This technique can result in scarring, forehead disfigurement, and hair growing in random directions.
Scalp reduction covers bald areas at the top and the back of the head by removing the bald scalp. Once the bald area of skin is removed, sections of the hair-bearing skin are pulled to fill in the bald area and sewn at the middle.
Side effects of scalp reduction include scarring and accelerated hair loss. One recommendation for those with scarring includes hair transplant procedures to cover the scars. With an additional hair loss treatment recommended for a side effect, it may be best to consider hair transplantation instead of scalp reduction to cut down on the number of procedures.
There are multiple solutions for hair restoration, but you should be sure to discuss the possibilities with your doctor to find the best solution for you. Be sure to find a board-certified plastic surgeon to perform the procedure and explain all of the steps beforehand. Although none of these methods can 100% guarantee that hair loss will not occur again, they do provide hair growth for a number of years.
[page updated December 2008]