It is natural to lose hair: men and women lose an average of fifty to one hundred hairs per day, most of the time without noticing. The loss of hair can be temporary or permanent, and although it is generally not a cause of medical concern, hair loss can be distressing. When this happens, several effective treatment options may be recommended, including hair transplant surgery, an advanced procedure which can cover gaps in the hair.
Following on from the first part where PRP injections were discussed, Dr Achimugu offers an expert insight into how a hair transplant surgery is used for hair loss, in this conclusion of a two-part series on hair loss treatment options.
What makes a person suitable for hair transplant surgery?
A hair transplant procedure can be suitable for both men and women. The most common cause and the most common candidates for hair transplant, are individuals who have male-pattern hair loss or female-pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). There are a variety of conditions that cause hair loss. Some of these are temporary and reversible if identified early. However, that is sadly not always the case. It is essential that the underlying cause of hair loss is identified and corrected if possible.
In hair transplant surgery, hair tissue also known as hair grafts, are carefully moved from a hair-bearing area to an area that is thinning or already bald. In most cases, these grafts are obtained from the back and sides of the scalp, which are considered the typical donor areas. The donor area is NOT limited to these locations as we can obtain hair grafts from almost any hair bearing area of the body. It is simply important to have enough hair tissue from all the potential donor areas (body areas where hair already exists) to allow hair to be aesthetically transplanted to achieve regrowth in its new location.
For anyone considering a hair transplant, ideally their hair loss should have stabilised. If there is ongoing hair-loss, your hair transplant surgeon should take this into consideration as they plan your treatment. A hair transplant is for life, so it is important to take long-term view.
The last factor to consider is age. Although, there is not an upper age limit for hair transplant surgery per say, it should not be performed if a patient is too young. There are limited cases where a hair transplant surgery may be appropriate for children, but it is not the first treatment option to be recommended, by any means. Like with adult patients, understanding the underlying diagnosis and cause of hair loss in children can help to create a personalised treatment plan including planning in advance for any surgery that is going to be undertaken.
Besides hair loss, hair transplant surgery can also be a suitable treatment for camouflaging old scars in hair bearing areas, for example, scars in the eyebrows or old linear strip scars. Hair transplant may also be a suitable option to address a receding hair line or for a high hair line.
What is involved in the hair transplant procedure?
At the Mae Clinic, we are trained in a combination of modern techniques, including fine needle, long-hair (aka non-shaven hair transplant) and FUE for hair transplant. FUE means follicular unit excision, a more modern technique for moving individual hair groups instead of cutting out a linear segment of skin. We carry out hair transplants under local anaesthetic (the patient is awake and the area is numb). The hair grafts required are individually harvested by your surgeon and then carefully placed in the new area the patient wants us to treat. This process is usually completed as a day case procedure. However, the number of hairs required and the time it takes to remove and move them depends on the size of the area that needs to be treated. So, this can vary from a few hours to most of the day.
Is a hair transplant procedure safe?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure which should only be carried out by skilled doctors with their specialist teams. In the UK, this is done in CQC regulated premises. In some cases, there may be factors that need to be considered and planned for first, such as any existing or pre-existing medical conditions, but in general a hair transplant is a common and safe procedure.
Can hair loss continue after hair transplant surgery?
Hair transplant treatment can fill any gaps that exist in the hair, but it does not stop the underlying cause of hair loss. People lose hair for a variety of reasons, so if the cause of the hair loss has not stopped or been treated, a further procedure may be required to fill any new gaps that develop. At The Mae Clinic, we always seek to identify the underlying cause of hair loss and encourage patients to take a long-term view when carrying out a hair restoration or a hair transplant treatment.
What is the success rate of hair transplant surgery for people with hair loss?
Hair transplant surgery can be a beneficial solution for many people, but it is important to understand and take the underlying cause of hair loss into account.
In android-genetic alopecia – where carefully planned – a hair transplant can be a successful procedure with success rates over ninety-five per cent in some cases and most importantly, patient satisfaction with their individual treatment. This is especially realised when long term outcomes and the underlying cause of hair loss have been analysed.
With underlying conditions like scarring which cause hair loss, the success rate varies. However, in these cases, a test procedure is performed first, in which fifty to one hundred grafts are taken, placed into a pre-planned area of the scalp. The outcome of this trial is analysed to determine the percentage of hair likely to re-grow for that individual patient. The whole process requires patience, but in the end, a patient’s individual success rate will be identified. In areas where hair is thin or previously non-existent, our aim is always to identify the most suitable option for the individual patient, utilising evidence based, modern techniques to help increase hair count and as such help to restore that patients’ hair confidence.
You can find more information about alternative treatment options for hair loss in Dr Achimugu's article on PRP injection therapy.