Q: Explain hair transplant.
A: Hair transplantation is basically rearranging the hair on our scalp. Most people losing hair still have hair in the back of the scalp. Excess hair follicles in the back are placed in the area of need. The skill is leaving enough hair in the back so the loss is unnoticeable.
Q: What is FUE hair transplant?
A: The most modern hair transplantation technique is called follicular unit extraction, or FUE. NeoGraft is an automated FUE technique, which leaves no scar. NeoGraft is for men and women.
Q: How long does a NeoGraft procedure take?
A: Approximately two hours for each 1,000 grafts.
Q: Is the patient awake during the procedure?
A: Yes. An oral sedative may be given, and a local anesthetic is injected before the procedure. The patient is offered nitrous oxide to breathe to reduce anxiety and discomfort.
Q: Is the procedure painful?
A: There is minimal discomfort during or after the procedure. A prescription for pain medication is given for any discomfort.
Q: Do the transplanted hairs grow?
A: Yes, they will continue to grow as they would in the donor site from where they came, usually for many decades.
Q: What do the new hairs look like when fully grown?
A: Entirely natural, if skillfully performed.
Q: Recovery expectations?
A: Swelling and some tiny scabs for several days. At 10 to 14 days the hairs usually fall out. At 3 to 4 months the first hairs start re-growing. Each hair follicle has a different dormant time before re-growing. Maximum density is 12 to 18 months.
Q: When can patients go back to work?
A: There is some swelling and small scabs will be visible for several days. Depending on the occupation, people go back to work two to seven days after surgery. A hat can be worn after the first day.
Q: What are alternatives to hair transplant?
A: Medications such as fenasteride and topical minoxidil can slow hair loss and might thicken hair.
In addition, PRP, platelet rich plasma, can be injected into the scalp, which stimulates hair growth in many patients. PRP is created from the patient's own blood in about 15 minutes. Multiple injections might be necessary. All of these measures can be used to maintain adequate hair growth in some patients.
Q: Hair transplantation 20 years ago looked like hair on a toy doll. Does it look more natural now?
A: Definitely. Those were hair "plugs." FUE's are micro-grafts, each containing 1 to 4 hairs instead of the 8 to 10 in plugs. Single hair grafts are perfect for the front hairline looking entirely natural. The 2 to 4 hair grafts are used elsewhere for more density.
Q: Why doesn't everyone who is losing hair have the procedure?
A: Most people are unaware of the advances made in hair transplant surgery, and many males and females wrongly think baldness or thinning hair is inevitable. Also, some people do not have enough "donor" hair for the procedure.
E. Ronald Finger, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon with offices in Savannah and Bluffton. www.fingerandassociates.com