A hair transplant involves moving hair follicles (found in the dermis and epidermis of the skin on the scalp) from one part of the head to another. It is most commonly used to treat male pattern baldness but can also be used in plastic surgery to restore eyelashes, eyebrows and even fill in areas that no longer have hair due to scarring.
Unlike a regular skin graft, hair transplants contain all the dermis and epidermis that surround the hair follicle. Also, even if a large strip of skin is harvested, it is first cut into smaller, tinier sections. The graft is never one big strip of skin, like a normal skin graft, but rather many tiny ones.
The donor hair is harvested before the hair transplant, while the patient is under local anaesthetic. There are two different ways to harvest hair:
The patient is put under local anaesthetic and a strip of scalp is removed. The strip that is removed contains healthy hair follicles that will be used during the transplant. The strip is then cut into small pieces of tissue that are reinserted into the balding part of the scalp using a blade. Strip harvesting leaves a linear scar where the strip was removed from, which can be covered with hair. Results are permanent if the areas of hair are cared for correctly after surgery.
This is a much more meticulous and drawn out surgical process as it involves taking out individual hair follicles using micro removal. Each follicle is then reinserted back into the scalp in the area where the hair is thinning or bald. The benefit, other than the results being permanent, is that the process leaves no scars and requires no stitches.
These procedures can be expensive, although in the last decade the prices have dropped as modern techniques have made performing them much easier. They can, however, have side effects, and if the scalp and operated area is not treated correctly after surgery, then the results could be quite disappointing. On the other hand, if correct care is taken, the results can be effective and new hair may grow on areas that were bald or balding.
The results of a hair transplant are permanent, should the post op area be cared for correctly. Many doctors give the patients a special shampoo; shampooing the scalp and affected area keeps the skin soft and moist and prevents any scabbing. Scabbing is what would potentially damage results.
'Shock loss' or temporary hair loss is also a side effect of a hair transplant. This is when the hair from the newly moved hair follicles will fall out within ten days of the operation. This is normal, but they should grow back within several weeks. There may be temporary swelling on the scalp and forehead, which can be monitored with specific medications.
Years after having a hair transplant, more hair on different parts of the scalp may start to fall out. Because the transplanted hair is from follicles that will never bald, they will continue to grow, so you could suffer from some very odd looking balding patterns.