Roughly one out of every five Americans is dealing with mild to severe hair loss, and as a result, there are numerous products and procedures out there that promise to stop hair loss or even regrow hair quickly. Unfortunately, these therapies do not work for everyone, and many people turn to medical or surgical hair restoration.  Below, you can learn more about hair transplant surgery, what’s involved, and whether you might be a good candidate.

What Is a Hair Transplant?

A hair transplant surgery is exactly what it sounds like: a procedure in which a surgeon moves hair from one area of the body to a bald area of the head. Most of the time, the donor hair is harvested from the back or the side of the head and moved to the top. The surgeon takes more than just the hair; he or she actually transplants the hair follicle, which is responsible for the growth of healthy hair.

Two Types of Hair Transplants

Slit grafts and micrografts are the two most common hair transplant procedures available today. Slit grafts are generally quicker as they contain somewhere between five and 10 hairs per graft. Micrografts only consist of one or two hairs per graft, so it can be meticulous and take quite a while. In many cases, surgeons may make use of both of these techniques to provide their clients with the best, most natural-looking hair possible.

What Happens During the Procedure?

Most hair transplants are performed in an outpatient in-office setting under local anesthesia and take roughly four to six hours depending on the amount of hair being transplanted. You will be awake for your procedure, but due to the numbing of the anesthetic, any pain or discomfort is minimal.  After injecting the anesthetic, the surgeon will remove donor hair from the back or side of your head using one of two methods depending on the procedure.  Follicular unit transplantation (FUT), and follicular unit extraction (FUE) are both common.

With Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), the surgeon will remove a strip of skin including hair and follicles from the back of your head and closes the wound with stitches.  This creates a linear scar on the back of your scalp.  The surgeon then separates the strip into smaller units of 3-4 hair follicles and these units are implanted into areas of the thin or balding scalp.   With Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), the surgeon will extract individual hair follicles from the back or sides of the scalp where hair loss tends to occur less frequently and then implants these into areas of hair loss.  This procedure takes longer but avoids the linear scar in the FUT approach.

After the Procedure

When your hair transplant is complete, your surgeon may advise you to take pain medications and/or anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen) to reduce pain and swelling. Sometimes, patients may be given antibiotics to help reduce the risk of infection, which can compromise the transplant. You will need to take a few days off of work, and it’s normal to notice some hair loss for two to three weeks after the procedure to make room for new growth. It takes about eight months to a year for you to notice new growth after a transplant, and the long-term results vary between patients.  For best results choose a surgeon with extensive experience in hair transplantation and be wary of “deals”.  Although this procedure can be expensive, you want an experienced provider to ensure the best and most natural results.

According to the Plastic Surgery Practice website (https://www.plasticsurgerypractice.com), there were almost 400,000 hair transplant procedures performed in 2014.

Most patients who have undergone hair transplantation continue to use additional medical treatments such as minoxidil, finasteride, and platelet rich plasma to achieve and maintain the best results.