A curious trend is on the rise among young people over the world. Due to the incredible amount of stress, we are exposed to on a daily basis and the societal pressures and obligations of modern life, a significant portion of the population, and especially young men are faced with the prospect of going bald prematurely.
Furthermore, every day more and more people are developing health disorders which cause or exacerbate abnormal hair loss. For this reason, many men and women are increasingly considering the possibility of undergoing a hair transplant or graft. However, before making a decision, you should become familiar with all possible pros and cons related to this procedure. Although for many, a hair transplant represents a viable solution, it is not for everyone.
WHAT IS A HAIR TRANSPLANT?
Your genes, physiological makeup, and environment can potentially act as factors that inhibit the growth of hair. When that happens, and hair loss becomes significant it can be countered with a medical hair transplant. A hair transplant is, as the name suggests, a surgical procedure that is performed under local anesthesia to minimize pain and discomfort. Hair transplantation is based on the relocation of healthy hair follicles from a donor site to the section of the scalp, known as the recipient site, which has undergone permanent hair loss. Although follicular transplantation can be applied to eyebrows, eyelashes, and even pubic hair, it is mostly used to reverse the visible signs of androgenic alopecia.
Modern techniques of follicular transplantation allow for two distinct methods of follicle harvesting.
- The first is called Strip Harvesting. As the name suggests, strip harvesting consists of the removal of an entire strip of the scalp where healthy hair growth is present. During the initial incision, the surgeon ensures that all follicles are removed intact; these are then dissected and punctured into the receiving sites. Strip harvesting is by far the most common method of harvesting follicular cells for transplantation. This method will almost always leave a faint scar where the donor strip was excised.
- The second method is called Follicular Unit Extraction, and it consists of the harvest of individual follicular groupings. This method allows for a more natural and realistic hair growth pattern since the surgeon can manually sculpt the pattern of the grafts and adjust the density of the follicles. Before a patient is approved for the FUE method, he or she must pass a test that will determine their candidacy. Scars are nonexistent with this method, and postoperative discomfort is minimal; which makes this procedure highly coveted by patients. However, this also means that FUE is significantly more expensive than Strip Harvesting and provides a surprisingly low rate of follicular survival.
Hair transplantation is considered to be minimally invasive, and relatively painless as far as medical procedures go, however, as such, it can cause health complications during the postoperative period. Some of the risks involved include post-operative bleeding, infection, poor healing, and unnatural appearance of hair growth patterns. Patients considering undergoing these types of procedures must be thoroughly evaluated by a competent surgeon.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF HAVING A HAIR TRANSPLANT
As with all surgical procedures, even minor ones, there are advantages and disadvantages to undergoing a hair transplant.
On the positive side, we have the fact that hair transplantation is minimally invasive and thus offers relatively short recovery periods. It is also advantageous in the fact that since follicles are relocated from your own scalp the chance of tissue rejection is almost non-existent. Hair transplantation also requires no long-term care as the follicles that are successfully grafted remain in their new location permanently.
On the negative side, we have the fact for most patients, depending on the degree of baldness present, various grafting sessions will be required for a noticeable improvement in the patient’s appearance to show up. As mentioned before, there is an admittedly minor but very real risk of post-operative infection. The scalp is a susceptible tissue, and there are individuals who are especially vulnerable to pain.
Discomfort and swelling are extremely common side effects of hair transplants. Patients with thin diffuse hair growth are unfortunately not good candidates. Hair transplantation is also not a viable option for patients with generalized hair loss, and only those with localized bald patches will benefit from the procedure. There also may be better alternatives to surgery for you.
SO WHATS THE CONCLUSION?
It cannot be denied that hair transplants are a viable alternative for some patients; however, a great percentage of the balding population does not qualify as viable candidates for these types of procedures. Patients who are younger than 35 are not considered good candidates for hair transplantation since their hair loss is expected to progress with age, and transplantation performed too soon will result in suboptimal results. Female patients are generally not considered viable candidates for hair transplants because female patterns of baldness are more diffuse and spread out through the entire scalp. The type of hair will also significantly affect the success of the procedure. Generally speaking thick, dark, hair will sustain better results than light-colored, thin hair.
Because of this I would suggest relegating hair transplantation as a last resort alternative. Hair transplants should not be discarded as an effective solution to hair loss, but they should definitely not be considered until other more natural and less invasive options are exhausted. These days the market is flooded with myriad options for the treatment of hair loss. There are various topical creams, ointments, shampoos, nutritional supplements and medicinal treatments that can provide substantial results before committing to a surgical procedure.
- Unger, Walter P., et al. Hair transplantation. CRC Press, 2010.
- Rassman, William R., et al. “Follicular unit extraction: minimally invasive surgery for hair transplantation.” Dermatologic Surgery 28.8 (2002): 720-728.
- Harii, Kiyonori, et al. “Hair transplantation with free scalp flaps.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 53.4 (1974): 410-413.
- Bisaccia, Emil, and Dwight Scarborough. “Hair transplant by incisional strip harvesting.” The Journal of dermatologic surgery and oncology 20.7 (1994): 443-448.
- Monell, Charles M., and Walter E. Berman. “The success or failure of the hair transplant.” Archives of Otolaryngology 97.3 (1973): 265-268.
- WIKIPEDIA Hair Transplant