Hair Transplants: Hair transplantation procedures are becoming increasingly more common. Science and technology have improved the way they’re performed, leading the way to more natural-looking results. Plus, the price tag for them is no longer out of reach for many patients. The potential to restore growing hair to thinning and balding areas of the scalp is a dream come true.
However, procedures such as follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE) don’t just happen on their own. They require the work of a skilled team led by physicians who understand what causes hair loss and how it can be restored. Not just anyone can do what they do with success.
A hair transplantation surgeon essentially begins with a blank canvas. They take stock of the donor hair and the tools they have to work with before using them to create something masterful for their patients. To appreciate their skill, you need to understand how these procedures work. Once you do, you can understand the skill and precision surgeons bring to them.
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Nothing Is Random
In simple terms, hair transplant surgeons move healthy, hair-generating tissue from one area of the scalp or body to an area that needs it. That’s a pretty broad brushstroke. What they do actually requires purposeful planning and precise execution.
Surgeons have to first examine areas with hair growth to locate tissue with good donor potential. They must strike a balance between how many healthy grafts they remove and how many they need to adequately fill in elsewhere.
Although the execution is precise, the math is not. The number of grafts patients need depends on the texture, density, and other characteristics of their hair. That will vary widely from patient to patient. Moreover, the type of transplant procedure is a variable as well.
When performing an FUE hair transplant, practitioners use a micro-punch to extract individual grafts. They will make sure they space out the grafts in such a way that they leave no noticeable bare spots in the donor areas. The grafts are then inserted closely enough, but not too closely, in the recipient areas, protecting scalp tissue from damage.
In FUT procedures, surgeons must locate an entire strip of donor tissue. The strip is extracted, then individual grafts are separated from it for transplantation. Because that extraction will leave a long scar, they must select the donor site carefully.
An Eye to the Future
Surgeons also must lay out the size and shape of the donor area strategically. In fact, where the new hairline is placed is perhaps the most important decision they will make. Not only does it need to look natural, but the unique characteristics of every patient’s donor hair will determine its position.
Surgeons assess the qualities of hair in the donor area to estimate how new hair will grow. As the new hairline flourishes, it will need to help cover the rest of the recipient site. How hair lays, whether it’s wavy or straight, coarse or thin, are all variables surgeons use in their calculations.
In addition, surgeons must assess future hair loss due to the normal aging process. Age-related hormonal changes, heredity, and thyroid and endocrine disorders diminish the size of the follicles and the length of the hair cycle. Youthful hair is replaced by finer, thinner hairs that fall out more frequently. At some point, they stop producing hair at all, just like those recipient areas did before your hair transplant.
Surgeons form hypotheses about where natural age-related hair loss is likely to occur on a patient. That likely pattern becomes a component in the surgeon’s transplant placement plan. Your commitment to ongoing hair-loss measures is a factor as well. For example, using products such as minoxidil and finasteride may help slow age-related hair loss and could lead to better results post-op.
The surgeon’s ability to create the right shape of the new hairline and position it in the best location is key. It’s a delicate skill, but one that will affect how your hair looks for a long time after transplantation.
Education and Experience Count
If you needed coronary bypass surgery, you’d probably choose a surgeon that has done hundreds if not thousands of them. Moreover, you would want that surgeon assisted by an operating room team also with procedural frequency and volume. Experience carries significant weight.
You may be thinking that hair transplantation surgery doesn’t compare with invasive heart surgery. Although that’s correct, it doesn’t make experience any less important. The more experienced hair transplant surgeons are, the more proficient and skilled they’re likely to be.
You should also make sure the procedure is performed by a physician, usually a plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Emerging technology and tools may make it possible for someone without a medical degree to perform FUE or FUT. However, you’re going to want someone with a medical degree in charge.
Veteran surgeons can reduce the potential for side effects, such as infection. They will know how to intervene should you develop any allergic reaction to the local anesthesia. The excision of tissue in FUT, for example, requires sutures at the donor site. They also can execute the procedure with greater speed and precision.
The more experienced your surgeon is at performing FUE or FUT hair transplants, the more likely it will be a success. At the end of the day, enjoying the results of your hair transplant is the goal.
Risk and Reward
Any surgery is accompanied by the calculation of the risk versus reward. You must weigh the value of your investment against the potential for greater reward. If you are considering FUE or FUT, hedge your bets.
How can you find the right surgeon for you? Ask questions about experience, weekly patient volumes, and the qualifications of the surgical team. Above all, look for before-and-after photos of their patients. That’s where you will see for yourself how they fill their canvas.