Of all hair loss treatments, the hair transplant is considered the most serious and is certainly the most involved and costly. It is most often used as the last resort by people suffering from various types of hair loss including traction alopecia, after other methods of regrowing hair have failed to produce the desired results.
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure where hair follicles are removed from one part of the body and transplanted on another part (usually the head, in cases of hair loss). It’s used to treat baldness, as the hair follicles used are considered resistant to balding. The modern hair transplant is produced by removing follicular units, naturally grouped follicles of 1–4 hairs and transplanting them together to achieve natural looking results.
How is a hair transplant performed?
The procedure is performed under local anaesthesia, with minor sedation if desired.The doctor will remove hair follicles from the back of the head, where hair is considered more resistant to balding. The modern hair transplant can be minimally invasive with relatively small incisions, resulting in the ability to place over 50 grafts of hair follicles in an area the size of a square centimetre.
There are several methods of harvesting hair follicles from the more resistant parts of the head. The main ones used today are follicular unit extraction as well as strip harvesting. Follicular unit extraction is more time consuming but does not leave a scar and is less painful. It is also more costly.
Strip extraction is faster and more common, where a strip of the scalp is removed from the back of the head, dissected and then reintroduced to the thinning areas of the scalp.
At what stage is a hair transplant necessary to treat traction alopecia?
A hair transplant is recommended when other methods of treatment have failed, such as when the hair follicles are scarred and won’t be stimulated to produce new hair growth. A doctor may recommend a hair transplant when a recognised topical drug (such as minoxidil) or prescription medication has been used for a duration of six months or more and has produced no visible improvement to the condition of the hair and scalp.
Not all types of hair loss call for a hair transplant, with many clinics encouraging men with receding hairlines, for example, to accept a certain amount of hair loss, rather than attempt to create an unnatural look by transplanting hair.
What are the side effects to a hair transplant?
A certain amount of hair loss immediately following the hair transplant is common as a result of the operative shock. This effect is usually temporary but can result in distressing bald patches until recovery. A certain amount of swelling can also occur and can be treated by medication.
A few years after the hair transplant there can be further hair loss, though the transplanted hair will likely remain. This can result in further bald patches and another hair transplant may be necessary (or the previously transplanted hairs can be removed).