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Transplant 101: Sons Explained

Transplant 101: Sons Explained
22 October 2020
6-minute read

Hair transplants are a form of surgical procedure to add more hair to a balding or thinning area of your head. This procedure is performed by taking hair from thicker parts of the scalp, usually the back of the scalp, which is not subject to male pattern hair loss (and occasionally from other parts of the body), and placing them into the parts of the scalp where they are most needed.

How does hair transplant work?

In the simplest terms, a hair transplant involves moving hair follicles from an area where you have lots of hair to where you need more of it. However, in reality hair transplantation is a meticulous and precise process involving hair follicles being taken from the hair at the back and sides of the head (hair that is not usually subject to male pattern hair loss) and transplanted to the areas where hair is thinning. A high degree of skill is required to transplant hair follicles without damaging them and to design a transplant that will look natural and blend in with your existing hair. 

There are two methods of hair transplants: FUT and FUE.

FUT (follicular unit transplantation)

  1. A strip of your scalp, usually about 6 to 12 inches (depending on the number of hair follicles being transplanted) is removed from the back of your head (the donor area) with a scalpel under local anaesthetic. 
  2. The donor site is closed up with fine stitches to minimise any post-operative scarring.
  3. This strip is dissected down to individual hair follicles. Once prepared, these follicles, also called grafts, are ready for transplant  - as many as 4,000 of these grafts can be transplanted during a procedure (depends on quality and density of donor hair, budget, complexity of procedure). 
  4. A surgical tool is used to make tiny incisions in the area where the fair follicles are to be transplanted, also known as the recipient site.
  5. The grafts are transplanted to the recipient site and inserted into the incisions made previously.
  6. After care instructions followed to ensure the grafts bed into the recipient site, which takes about 2 weeks.
  7. Following treatment, your stitches (for FUT procedure - FUE has none) will usually be removed 10 days after surgery. 

FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction)

  1. Hair is shaved from the donor area - usually from the back of your head - to leave very short hair and the area is numbed with local anaesthetic to minimise discomfort.
  2. Individual follicles (or follicular units) are removed from the donor area using precision surgical tools. 
  3. A surgical tool is used to make tiny incisions in the area where the fair follicles are to be transplanted, also known as the recipient site.
  4. The grafts are transplanted to the recipient site and inserted into the incisions made previously.
  5. After care instructions followed to ensure the grafts bed into the recipient site, which takes about 2 weeks.

Does hair transplant hurt?

Hair transplants usually don’t hurt during the procedure as local anaesthetic is usually administered to numb the area beforehand. You may experience some mild swelling and  discomfort following the procedure, which usually resolves after a few days. 

Are there any side effects?

As with any surgical procedure, there are possible side effects, although they are rare.  

Side effects of hair transplants include:

  • Bleeding and infection are rare, however it is important if any sign of either that you contact the transplant clinic immediately
  • Reaction to the medication used, eg local anaesthetic
  • A tight and swollen scalp that can last for several days after the procedure
  • Bleeding and scabbing where the hair was transplanted can be quite common. This can lead to itchiness and irritation
  • Damage to the hair follicles during the procedure will mean that the transplanted follicles may not grow hair
  • Failure to follow post-operative guidance can also cause transplanted follicles to become dislodged or not ‘take’, leading to poor post-operative results. 
  • Any cut in the skin will leave a scar, hair transplants are no exception. Depending on the type of surgery, FUT will usually leave a fine single scar along the donor site, usually not visible with hair longer than a blade 4. FUE distributes the scar over a larger area with a number of tiny scars across the donor site, allowing a shorter haircut. Scarring varies with skin type, procedure type, quality and experience of the transplant clinic. Extensive scarring or keloid scarring can cause significant consequences for patients which can outweigh the benefits of a transplant.  

Do hair transplants work?

For the most part, hair transplants are very effective and for the most part they are permanent. Hair will start to regrow after about three to six months as normal and will not be subject to future male pattern hair loss. Full results will not be seen until a year after the procedure.

However, there are a few important points to consider:

  • Hair transplants replace the hair you’ve lost by rearranging hair from the back of the head to areas of need - they do not give you new hair. If your donor hair is sparse, there are limitations as to what a transplant can do. Similarly if your hair loss is extensive, you may not have enough hair to get the coverage you are looking for - it’s really important to have realistic expectations about what a transplant can achieve. 
  • A hair transplant will not prevent further hair loss of your ‘native hair’ ie existing hair on your head that could still be subject to hair loss - going bald behind a hair transplant can leave your hair looking a mess so it’s important to consider taking medication to stop/slow further hair loss. A good hair transplant clinic will factor this into their transplant design and fully go through this with you.   
  • A poor quality transplant can be disastrous. Beware of clinics offering deals that seem too good to be true - there really aren’t any short cuts with transplants. A poor design can leave the hair line looking unnatural, and poor surgical technique can leave extensive scarring or damaged hair follicles, which ultimately can make them fall out.

How long does a hair transplant take?

A hair transplant procedure can take anywhere from about half a day up to sometimes even two days, depending on the type and extent of transplant. Some people decide to transplant different areas at different times (i.e. transplanting the hairline and crown separately) or need more surgery as their hair loss progresses and it’s important to be aware of this before undergoing a transplant. 

How much is a hair transplant?

Transplants are the most expensive form of hair loss treatment but the prices vary hugely on the extent of treatment you require and the quality and location of the clinic that you attend. You can expect to pay a minimum of £1,000 for lesser treatments and up to £40,000 for more extensive surgeries.

The quality of your clinic is absolutely crucial to the success of your treatment - we recommend that you never try to save money on a budget clinic (either home or abroad) as this can lead to poor results and even scarring post-surgery. It is better to get no transplant done at all rather than getting one that is done badly.

Done well, transplants can be life-changing - but we advise exercising caution when choosing a transplant clinic. Do your research, ensure you are happy with the quality of the clinic and the surgeon carrying out the procedure and be sure you understand the costs of the procedure and aftercare required prior to investing in a transplant.

All of our blog articles are reviewed by our Medical Director before publication.