Yara Zakharia, Esq.
By age fifty, the percentage of men and women who experience hair loss is in the range of 40 to 50%. A recent worldwide online study found that 57% of males impacted by pattern baldness would choose more hair over a valued item of personal property such as a plasma TV, a laptop, a pricey auto, or a stereo.
At the forefront of hair loss treatment are reconstructive procedures known as hair transplansts or hair replacement. They enable patients to dissimulate thinning areas and achieve a fuller scalp. Due to technological advances, these procedures boast a high record of safety, a surprising level of comfort, impressively natural results that are long-lasting, and benefits that overwhelmingly outweigh any potential risks when performed by qualified physicians.
Prospective patients should first consult with their dermatologist or family doctor about their hair loss. If they do not respond favorably to medications, then they should consider a corrective measure such as a hair loss transplant.
Hair transplants involve the implantation of grafts taken from an area of the patient's scalp that has a strong, healthy mass of hair (donor region) and that is genetically resistant to balding- typically the sides and back of the head- into a bald area of the scalp. Upon termination of the hair restoration procedure, the hair implanted into the recipient area assumes a natural appearance and models itself after the patient's original hair. Generally, a hair loss transplant is conducted under local anesthesia and is completed in one day.
Hair Transplant Procedures
What follows is a discussion of the most commonly-employed methods of permanent hair transplant:
- Follicular Unit Strip Procedure
This surgery involves removal of a hair strip from a donor area and transfer to a balding or thinning region. The donor area is then sealed with sutures. For this procedure, which is recommended for individuals with average to excessive balding, the process of healing takes a few days.
- Hair Flap Surgery
This complex procedure, which is performed under general anesthesia and consumes the least amount of time, provides coverage for a large portion of the scalp. A flap of skin on the scalp is pulled from the back or sides of the head and attached to a bald surface area. The new area starts growing hairs, which upon healing hides the scars below and above the flap. To achieve complete coverage, several procedures are sometimes needed. Hair flap surgery is ideal for individuals experiencing severe balding.
- Follicular Unit Extraction
Strips composed of one to four strands of hair each are removed from the sides or back of a patient's head and transplanted into a pattern that mimics the natural growth of the patient's hair. There are no deep or major incisions, few scars, and the recovery period is relatively short. When performed well, the hair transplant goes unnoticed.
- Micro Grafting
This effective hair replacement procedure involves the transplant of units of follicular hair grafts into thick portions of the hairline.
- Scalp Tissue Expansion
Surgeons implant a balloon-like mechanism under the scalp next to an area of baldness or thinning. To enable the scalp to swell, expand and develop new skin cells, the balloon is filled with a salt water mixture. In a period of two months or so, the skin is sufficiently stretched to be spread over the bald region. This method provides significant coverage in a brief period of time.
- Punch Grafts
In this hair transplant approach, circular strands of hair are implanted in portions of the scalp that are balding.
- Slit Grafts
This procedure involves the insertion of up to 10 hair follicles into areas of the scalp, predominantly on the crown. The strands are added into a section of the scalp where hair growth is prominent.
- Scalp Reduction Surgery
Alternatively referred to as advanced flap surgery, this procedure involves removal of portions of the bald scalp. Areas of the scalp that bear hair are stretched to cover the bare scalp. Scalp reduction surgery can cause discomfort in that the patient feels his or her scalp tightening. The extent of the patient's hair loss and his or her age determine how many scalp reductions will be necessary. This procedure is optimal for individuals needing to treat baldness at the back or top of the head.
Complications, Side Effects and New Growth
Complications in hair loss transplant surgeries are minimal and rare, and side effects can be remedied through medication. Some of the most common side effects are scars, cysts, headaches, hiccoughs, small amount of bleeding, small scabs, itchy scalp, and swelling around the eyes and forehead.
Hair growth may take up to six months to be noticeable, and final results may not be visible until 7 months to a year following the procedure. New hair can be styled, trimmed, colored, permed, and washed as usual, and individuals who have undergone hair replacement can engage in the same activities as before (i.e. jogging, tennis, etc.)
Finding a Qualified Specialist
Doctor-shopping is a critical step since results of the surgery are permanent. Therefore, prospective patients should ask whether a particular center offers the most advanced methods and not hesitate to speak with former clients.
Hair Transplant Cost
The cost of a hair loss transplant hinges on:
- The type of clinic selected
- The number of grafts and sessions required
- The type of procedure chosen
On average, the cost of a hair transplant ranges from $2,000 to $8,500. Due to a lower overhead, private facilities tend to charge less than facilities with divisions throughout the U.S. It pays to comparison-shop because many hair transplant surgery centers offer affordable treatment, and some clinics offer bulk discounts so that the more grafts purchased, the lower the cost. Still others allow their clients a monthly payment plan. Consumers can find out how much they can expect to pay by availing themselves of a free price quote and consultation offered by most hair transplant clinics.
[page updated December 2008]