When is a hair transplant necessary to treat traction alopecia?

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).

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