Hair transplant

Definition

A hair transplant is a surgical procedure to improve baldness.

Description

Hair transplantation is a surgical technique in which a physician redistributes hairs from an area of thick growth to areas that have balded.

Most hair transplants are performed in an office setting under local anesthesia. Only minimal pain should be experienced. After thoroughly cleaning the scalp, small needles are used to numb an area of normal hair growth on the back of the scalp. A portion of the hairy scalp is then removed with a scalpel and set aside while the surgeon sews the cut scalp closed.

After the scalp is sewn closed, small groups of hairs, or individual hairs, are separated out from the removed scalp using a magnifying lens and sharp blade. The area that will receive these healthy hairs, usually the front of the scalp, is then cleaned and numbed with additional small needles. Finally, tiny holes are made in the front of the scalp and healthy hairs are delicately placed in the holes. During a single treatment session, many hundreds or even thousands of hairs may be transplanted.

Indications

In patients who are concerned about their balding, hair transplantation can significantly improve their appearance and self confidence. Realistic expectations are important, however. It is important to remember that hair still cannot be created; it can only be redistributed from the back of the scalp to the front.

Most patients undergoing hair transplantation have traditional male or female pattern baldness, with hair loss on the front or top of the scalp. Patients must still have thick hair on the back or sides of the scalp, or there may not be enough hair follicles to move. In some cases, patients with hair loss from lupus, injuries, or other medical problems may be treated with hair transplantation.

Patients undergoing hair transplantation should be otherwise relatively healthy, or surgery is less likely to be safe and successful. Always discuss your risks and options with your physician before undergoing any elective surgery.

RISKS

As with any surgical procedure, risks exist. The most common complications of hair transplantation are bleeding, infection, and scarring.

Though less dangerous, it is also possible that the transplanted hair won’t look as good as you had desired. Older techniques often resulted in unnatural appearing tufts of new hair growth. With modern techniques, this complication is infrequent.

Expectations after surgery

Most modern hair transplants result in excellent hair growth within several months after the procedure. Often, however, more than one treatment session is needed to create the best-looking results. The replaced hairs are usually permanent, and no long-term care is necessary.

Convalescence

During the recovery period after surgery, the scalp is often very tender. Strong pain medications taken by mouth may be necessary for several days. A bulky surgical dressing, or sometimes a smaller dressing protected by a baseball cap, must be worn for at least a day or two. Some surgeons may also recommend several days of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs following surgery. After this very brief recovery period, no special treatment is needed.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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