Hair loss is a harsh and inevitable fact of life for most men. Yes, most men. Estimates suggest that roughly two-thirds of American men will experience noticeable hair loss by 35, and 85% by age 50.
That’s how it used to be anyway. New developments in hair restoration since the 1990’s show great improvement in preserving hair and preventing hair loss. Hair restoration refers to medical and surgical solutions to hair loss. Medical solutions include Rogaine and Propecia. Hair transplants are a surgical form of hair restoration, and they’re permanent.
As the term implies, hair transplants involve surgery, during which surgeons transplant follicular units, or grafts, from a donor site to the balding, or recipient area. This transplanted hair falls out, generally two to three weeks after the surgery, and new hair grows in the transplanted areas, between three and 12 months following.
The surgeon anesthetizes the patient and removes the donor strip, most often from the back of the head, just above the neck, which is less prone to hair loss. The surgeon then sutures or stitches the opening, to minimize scarring, while members of the surgical team separate the removed hairs into grafts of one to four follicles.
The number of grafts used depends on the patient’s hair type, color and severity of hair loss. A standard procedure involves 500 to 2,000 grafts.
Following this, the surgeon or member of the team cleans the scalp and numbs the donor area, inserts small holes or slits with a needle, and carefully fills them with the prepared grafts.
The surgery lasts between four and eight hours. The scalp is very tender after the surgery and the surgeon may prescribe painkillers. Patients wear a surgical dressing after the surgery, and many take two to five days off work for recovery.
Hair transplants generally cost between $4,000 and $15,000, depending on the number of grafts. The surgery is rarely covered by insurance. Risks include bleeding, infection and unnatural-looking hair, though it’s less common with recent breakthroughs in transplant technology.
Scarring is probable, from removal of the donor strip, but is rarely visible, unless the patient shaves his head.
The patient must have sufficient donor hair to transplant to the recipient area to make hair transplants a viable option. Most patients require several sessions, to counter future hair loss.
Remember that it’s important to choose a qualified surgeon to perform a hair transplant. This is by far the most important consideration and will certainly determine whether the patient is happy with the results. Look for a surgeon with years of experience, before and after patient pictures, and in the United States, board certification by the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery.
Feel free to call the board as well, to verify the surgeon’s credentials.
Are hair transplants the best hair restoration option? Hair transplants won’t produce the thick locks of yester-year, and the surgery can be expensive and painful. That said, hair transplants redistribute existing hair into areas where hair is lacking, and can improve appearance and self-confidence.
Remember also that hair transplants are permanent. They’re expensive, yes, and they’re not possible once the donor site is exhausted of transplantable hair. But hair transplants eliminate the need for recurring solutions, like Rogaine and Propecia, both of which require ongoing use. That alone makes hair transplants an attractive option for many patients.