As with any surgical procedure, thorough counselling before hair-restoration surgery is critical. Patients require education to make informed decisions regarding this elective procedure, i.e. whether to undergo it, and if so, which procedures. Because hair restoration is cosmetic surgery, discussing patients areas of concern, explaining treatment options, and providing a realistic picture of expected results are important. The present techniques and technology of hair transplantation surgery can give a proper candidate realistic and natural appearing transplanted hair. Using 2 or 3 hair transplant sessions, the candidate has a successful outcome.
Hair transplantation involves removing small pieces of hair-bearing scalp grafts, or plugs, from a donor site, often from the thick hair on the sides and back of the head and relocating them to a bald or thinning area. The larger grafts were the standard until about a decade ago, when transplant surgeons looked critically at their work and the correlation between their results and graft size. They decided that smaller grafts would provide better results, because smaller grafts contain fewer hairs and, therefore, less clumping of transplanted hairs, which is responsible for that characteristic sprout-like look. That began the era of mini-grafts and micro-grafts. Let’s look more closely at these as we learn how hair transplantation works.
Anyone who has experienced permanent hair loss may be a candidate for hair restoration surgery, including:
Hair transplantation involves removing small pieces of hair-bearing scalp grafts from a donor site and relocating them to a bald or thinning area. Grafts differ by size and shape. Round-shaped punch grafts usually contain about 10-15 hairs. The much smaller mini-graft contains about two to four hairs; and the micro-graft, one to two hairs. Slit grafts, which are inserted into slits created in the scalp, contain about four to10 hairs each; strip grafts are long and thin and contain 30-40 hairs.
Generally, several surgical sessions may be needed to achieve satisfactory fullness-and a healing interval of several months is usually recommended between each session. It may take up to two years before you see the final result with a full transplant series. The amount of coverage you’ll need is partly dependent upon the color and texture of your hair. Coarse, gray or light-colored hair affords better coverage than fine, dark-colored hair. The number of large plugs transplanted in the first session varies with each individual, but the average is about 50. For mini-grafts or micro-grafts, the number can be up to 700 per session.
Just before surgery, the “donor area” will be trimmed short so that the grafts can be easily accessed and removed. For punch grafts, your doctor may use a special tube-like instrument made of sharp carbon steel that punches the round graft out of the donor site so it can be replaced in the area to be covered-generally the frontal hairline. For other types of grafts, your doctor will use a scalpel to remove small sections of hair-bearing scalp, which will be divided into tiny sections and transplanted into tiny holes or slits within the scalp. When grafts are taken, your doctor may periodically inject small amounts of saline solution into the scalp to maintain proper skin strength. The donor site holes may be closed with stitches-for punch grafts, a single stitch may close each punch site; for other types of grafts, a small, straight-line scar will result. The stitches are usually concealed with the surrounding hair.
To maintain healthy circulation in the scalp, the grafts are placed about one-eighth of an inch apart. In later sessions, the spaces between the plugs will be filled in with additional grafts. Your doctor will take great care in removing and placement of grafts to ensure that the transplanted hair will grow in a natural direction and that hair growth at the donor site is not adversely affected.
After the grafting session is complete, the scalp will be cleansed and covered with gauze. You may have to wear a pressure bandage for a day or two. Some doctors allow their patients to recover bandage-free.
Plastic surgeons are the leaders in tissue expansion, a procedure commonly used in reconstructive surgery to repair burn wounds and injuries with significant skin loss. Its application in hair replacement surgery has yielded dramatic results-significant coverage in a relatively short amount of time.
In this technique, a balloon-like device called a tissue expander is inserted beneath hair-bearing scalp that lies next to a bald area. The device is gradually inflated with salt water over a period of weeks, causing the skin to expand and grow new skin cells. This causes a bulge beneath the hair-bearing scalp, especially after several weeks.
When the skin beneath the hair has stretched enough-usually about two months after the first operation-another procedure is performed to bring the expanded skin over to cover the adjacent bald area.
Flap surgery on the scalp has been performed successfully for more than 20 years. This procedure is capable of quickly covering large areas of baldness and is customized for each individual patient. The size of the flap and its placement are largely dependent upon the patient’s goals and needs. One flap can do the work of 350 or more punch grafts.
A section of bald scalp is cut out and a flap of hair-bearing skin is lifted off the surface while still attached at one end. The hair-bearing flap is brought into its new position and sewn into place, while remaining “tethered” to its original blood supply. As you heal, you’ll notice that the scar is camouflaged-or at least obscured-by relocated hair, which grows to the very edge of the incision.
In recent years, plastic surgeons have made significant advances in flap techniques, combining flap surgery and scalp reduction for better coverage of the crown; or with tissue expansion, to provide better frontal coverage and a more natural hairline.
This technique is sometimes referred to as advancement flap surgery because sections of hair-bearing scalp are pulled forward or “advanced” to fill in a bald crown.
Scalp reduction is for coverage of bald areas at the top and back of the head. It’s not beneficial for coverage of the frontal hairline. After the scalp is injected with a local anesthetic, a segment of bald scalp is removed. The pattern of the section of removed scalp varies widely, depending on the patient’s goals. If a large amount of coverage is needed, doctors commonly remove a segment of scalp in an inverted Y-shape. Excisions may also be shaped like a U, a pointed oval, or some other figure.
The skin surrounding the cut-out area is loosened and pulled, so that the sections of hair-bearing scalp can be brought together and closed with stitches. It’s likely that you’ll feel a strong tugging at this point, and occasional pain.
Before: Hair replacement candidates should have some noticeable hair loss with healthy hair growth at the back and sides of the head to serve as donor areas.
Step 1: A tube-like instrument punches round grafts from the donor site to be placed in the area where hair replacement is desired.
Step 2: A tube-like instrument punches round grafts from the donor site to be placed in the area where hair replacement is desired.
Step 3: When the skin beneath the hair has stretched enough, it is surgically placed over the bald area.
Step 4: During flap surgery, a section of bald scalp is cut out and a flap of hair-bearing skin is sewn into its place.
Step 5: The patterns used in scalp reduction vary widely, yet all meet the goal of bringing hair and scalp together to cover bald areas.
The transplanted hair follicles typically appear to grow in the immediate postoperative period. Within a month, the graft follicles enter the telogen phase and are all shed. Hair re-growth then takes approximately 4 months, but the hair continues to improve in quality and quantity over the subsequent 2-4 months. Growth stabilizes at about 1 year and reports have indicated graft survival rates of over 95% in experienced hands. Even 18 months after surgery, newly transplanted hairs have been observed to appear for the first time.
Hair replacement surgery risks
Hair replacement surgery is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced physician. Still, individuals vary greatly in their physical reactions and healing abilities, and the outcome is never completely predictable.
As in any surgical procedure,
In transplant procedures,
Hair transplantation involves removing small pieces of hair-bearing scalp grafts from a donor site and relocating them to a bald or thinning area.
Baldness is often blamed on poor circulation to the scalp, vitamin deficiencies, dandruff, and even excessive hat-wearing. All of these theories have been disproved. It’s also untrue that hair loss can be determined by looking at your maternal grandfather, or that 40-year-old men who haven’t lost their hair will never lose it.
Hair loss is primarily caused by a combination of:
As a rule, the earlier hair loss begins, the more severe the baldness will become. Hair loss can also be caused by burns or trauma.
Hair replacement surgery can enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but the results won’t necessarily match your ideal. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
It’s important to understand that all hair replacement techniques use your existing hair. The goal of surgery is to find the most efficient uses for existing hair.
Most doctors today recommend beginning medical treatment of significant hair loss as soon as the problem has been identified. Even if a patient decides to proceed with surgical hair restoration, medical treatment may slow or prevent additional hair loss in the future. Patients may have hair restoration surgery at any age after the early 20s, but the decision for any given patient may be different, depending on a number of factors.
The vast majority of patients have their first procedure while they are not yet completely bald, so that they can use existing hair to help camouflage the procedure. However, because hair loss tends to be both gradual and progressive, it is often unwise to start surgical treatment in a patient who is too young.
Medical treatments such as finasteride and minoxidil are usually recommended for men with hair loss to help preserve or partially reverse thinning hair in the rear crown and in the area on top.
Hair transplants can be used to fill in the front hairline and thicken the front half of the scalp, and medical treatments can be used to maintain hair behind the transplants and to possibly enhance the long-term results of hair restoration surgery. Your hair restoration surgeon will work with you to design an individualized plan to fulfill your specific needs.
The elements that a doctor assesses to determine whether a candidate is a good subject for surgical hair restoration include such things as:
Making an accurate diagnosis and making treatment recommendations require an examination by a doctor and a frank discussion of possibilities between the patient and the doctor. The doctor should also give the patient a realistic estimate of the total cost of the planned procedure or procedures. The patient must understand that transplantation redistributes existing hair follicles and cannot create new hair follicles.
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