Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that involves moving skin containing hair follicles from one part of the body (the donor site) to bald or balding parts (the recipient site). It is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness, whereby grafts containing hair follicles that are genetically resistant to balding are transplanted to bald scalp. However, it is also used to restore eye lashes, eye brows, beard hair, and to fill in scars caused by accidents and surgery such as face lifts and previous hair transplants. Hair transplantation differs from skin grafting in that grafts contain almost all of the epidermis and dermis surrounding the hair follicle, and many tiny grafts are transplanted rather than a single strip of skin.
Since hair naturally grows in follicles that contain groupings of 1 to 4 hairs, today’s most advanced techniques transplant these naturally occurring 1 – 4 hair “follicular units” in their natural groupings. Thus modern hair transplantation can achieve a natural appearance by mimicking nature hair for hair. This recent hair transplant procedure is called “Follicular Unit Transplantation.”..
The use of both scalp flaps, in which a band of tissue with its original blood supply is shifted to the bald area, and free grafts dates back to the 19th century. Modern transplant techniques began in Japan in the 1930s, where surgeons used small grafts, and even “follicular unit grafts” to replace damaged areas of eyebrows or lashes. They did not attempt to treat baldness per se. Their efforts did not receive worldwide attention at the time, and the traumas of World War II kept their advances isolated for another two decades.
The modern era of hair transplantation in the western world was ushered in the late 1950s, when New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich began to experiment with free donor grafts to balding areas in patients with male pattern baldness. Previously it had been thought that transplanted hair would thrive no more than the original hair at the “recipient” site. Dr. Orentreich demonstrated that such grafts were “donor dominant,” as the new hairs grew and lasted just as they would have at their original home. Today Dr. Orentreich’s practice still performs hair transplants.
For the next twenty years, surgeons worked on transplanting smaller grafts, but results were only minimally successful, with 2-4 mm “plugs” leading to a doll’s head-like appearance. In the 1980s, Uebel in Brazil popularized using large numbers of small grafts, while in the United States Rassman began using thousands of “micrografts” in a single session.
In the late 1980s, Limmer introduced the use of the stereo-microscope to dissect a single donor strip into small micrografts. In 1995, Bernstein and Rassman published the first paper on “Follicular Unit Transplantation,” where hair is transplanted exclusively in naturally occurring groups of 1-4 hairs. With microscopic dissection of donor pieces from an excised portion of scalp, individual follicular units containing but 1-4 hairs could be prepared and individually relocated into needle punctures in the recipient areas. Since the transplanted hair mimics the way hair grows in nature, close to natural results were attainable.
The follicular unit hair transplant procedure has continued to evolve, becoming more refined and minimally invasive as the size of the graft incisions have become smaller. These smaller and less invasive incisions enable surgeons to place a larger number of follicular unit grafts into a given area. With the new “gold standard” of ultra refined follicular unit hair transplantation, over 50 grafts can be placed per square centimeter, when appropriate for the patient.
Surgeons have also devoted more attention to the angle and orientation of the transplanted grafts. The adoption of the “lateral slit” technique in the early 2000s, enabled hair transplant surgeons to orient 2 to 4 hair follicular unit grafts so that they splay out across the scalp’s surface. This enabled the transplanted hair to lie better on the scalp and provide better coverage to the bald areas. One disadvantage however, is that lateral incisions also tend to disrupt the scalp’s vascularity more than sagitals. Thus sagital incisions transect less hairs and blood vessels assuming the cutting instruments are of the same size. One of the big advantages of sagitals is that they do a much better job of sliding in and around existing hairs to avoid follicle transection. This certainly makes a strong case for physicians who do not require shaving of the recipient area. The lateral incisions bisect existing hairs perpendicular (horizontal) like a T while sagital incisions run parallel (vertical) along side and in between existing hairs. The use of perpendicular (lateral/coronal) slits verses parallel (sagital) slits however, has been heavily debated on patient based hair transplant communities. Many elite hair transplant surgeons typically adopt a combination of both methods depending on what is best for the patient.
At an initial consultation, the surgeon analyzes the patient’s scalp, discusses his preferences and expectations, and advises him/her on the best approach (e.g.,single vs. multiple sessions) and what results might reasonably be expected.
Click to see on pictures : CORRECTIVE HAIR TRANSPLANT PROCEDURE
For several days prior to surgery the patient refrains from using any medicines, or alcohol, which might result in intraoperative bleeding and resultant poor “take” of the grafts. Pre-operative antibiotics are commonly prescribed to prevent wound or graft infections.
Hair transplantation is a surgical technique in which a physician redistributes hairs from an area of thick growth to bald areas.
This Procedure is Performed because:
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.
Transplant operations are performed on an outpatient basis, with mild sedation (optional) and injected topical anesthesia, and typically last about four hours. The scalp is shampooed and then treated with an antibacterial chemical prior to the donor scalp being harvested.
In the usual follicular unit procedure, the surgeon harvests a strip of skin from the posterior scalp, in an area of good hair growth. The excised strip is about 1-1.5 x 15-30 cm in size. While closing the resulting wound, assistants begin to dissect individual follicular unit grafts from the strip. Working with binocular microscopes, they carefully remove excess fibrous and fatty tissue while trying to avoid damage to the follicular cells that will be used for grafting.
The surgeon then uses a fine needle to puncture the sites for receiving the grafts, placing them in a predetermined density and pattern, and angling the wounds in a consistent fashion to promote a realistic hair pattern. The assistants generally do the final part of the procedure, inserting the individual grafts in place.
Risk Factor: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.
Advances in wound care allow for semi-permeable dressings, which allow seepage of blood and tissue fluid, to be applied and changed at least daily. The vulnerable recipient area must be shielded from the sun, and shampooing is started two days after the surgery. Some surgeons will have you shampoo the day after surgery. Shampooing is important to prevent scabs from occurring around the hair shaft. Scabs adhere to the hair shaft and increase the risk of losing newly transplanted hair follicles during the first 7 to 10 days post-op.
During the first ten days, virtually all of the transplanted hairs, inevitably traumatized by their relocation, will fall out (“shock loss”). After two to three months new hair will begin to grow from the moved follicles. The patient’s hair will grow normally, and continue to thicken through the next six to nine months. Any subsequent hair loss is likely to be only from untreated areas. Some patients elect to use medications to retard such loss, while others plan a subsequent transplant procedure to deal with this eventuality.
There are two main ways in which donor grafts are extracted today. These are the Strip Harvesting Technique and the Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Technique.
The Strip Harvesting Technique involves removing a strip containing a large group of follicular units from the donor area – almost always from the back and sides of the scalp. The strip is then divided into grafts (or follicular units) containing 1 to 4 follicles.
The Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Technique involves removing one follicular unit at a time directly from the donor area – usually the back and sides, but also sometimes from the chest, legs or face (beard hair) – using a small punch usually of between 0.5mm and 1mm in diameter.
Hair thinning, known as “shock loss”, is a common side effect that is usually temporary. Bald patches are also common, as fifty to a hundred hairs can be lost each day.
Other side effects include swelling of areas such as the scalp and forehead. If this becomes uncomfortable, medication may ease the swelling. Additionally, the patient must be careful if his scalp starts itching, as scratching will make it worse and cause scabs to form. A moisturizer or massage shampoo may be used in order to relieve the itching.
The scalp is divided into 5 layers, which are easily remembered by the mnemonic SCALP, which represents, in order from outermost to innermost layer, the skin, connective subcutaneous tissue, galea aponeurosis, loose connective tissue, and periosteum over the cranium.
The skin contains all the epidermal appendages, including hair follicles, which extend into the connective subcutaneous layer. In areas that have undergone hair loss, thinning of the outer 2 layers usually occurs. This situation can be appreciated when one compares the thickness of the scalp in recipient areas to that in donor areas.
The subcutaneous layer is well vascularized and contains the main penetrating branches of the named main arteries that travel primarily along the external surface of the galea. The importance of staying superficial along the connective subcutaneous tissue layer (when one makes slit recipient sites to avoid compromising circulation) has only recently become apparent. The scalp has an excellent blood supply. The supraorbital, supratrochlear, superficial temporal, postauricular, and occipital arteries are the primary vessels, and they typically travel with the veins.
The galea aponeurotica is a nonelastic layer that connects the frontalis muscles anteriorly with the occipitalis muscle at its posterior aspect. The temporoparietal fascia, in which the superficial temporal artery travels, is also connected to the galea. The galea sliding over the loose connective tissue layer allows for most scalp mobility. This loose connective tissue layer and the periosteum below have minimal sensory innervation.
The sensory innervation of the scalp closely follows the vascular supply. At the anterior aspect, the supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves provide sensation to the anterior half of the scalp. On occasion, sensation to the frontal scalp can diminish for several weeks when a large number of graft recipient sites are made along the hairline. The occipital nerve serves the posterior half of the scalp, whereas the supraauricular and superficial temporal nerves contribute innervation from the sides.
Perhaps no anatomic feature of the scalp is more important with regard to hair transplantation than the microscopic distribution of hair. Scalp hairs usually do not grow individually; they most often grow in tiny follicular-unit bundles, which usually contain 2-3 hairs and occasionally 1 or 4 hairs. A follicular-unit contains these 1-4 terminal hairs, a sebaceous gland element, and insertions of the arrector pili muscles, all wrapped in an adventitial tissue sheath. These follicular units are dispersed throughout the scalp, where non–hair-bearing skin constitutes up to 50% of the total tissue. By transplanting only these follicular units and dissecting away the 50% of unnecessary non–hair-bearing tissue, the most natural-appearing results can be attained.
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.
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.
In recent years hair transplants have become less expensive. Prices typically range from $3.00 to $7.00 per graft, with $4 to $5 per graft being about average. Normally the price per graft also drops as the size of the surgical session increases. Depending on the needs of the patient a typical surgical session can range from 1,500 to over 4,000 grafts, resulting in a total cost of approximately $6000 to $15,000. A few clinics offer larger sessions of up to 6000 grafts in one sitting.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being a surgeon is knowing when not to operate. In elective cosmetic surgery, sound judgment must certainly be exercised.
Individuals must be motivated to undergo hair transplantation. Although the author does not conduct a formal psychological evaluation by means of lengthy questionnaires and examinations, some surgeons use this method. During the consultation, the present author generally reads to the individual to ensure that he or she is mature enough to decide to undergo the planned procedure. A prospective patient who has realistic motivations and expectations before the procedure is likely to be happy after the procedure. Honest and thorough preprocedural consultation is perhaps the most important part of the process.
Poor medical health is a potential contraindication for elective surgery of any kind. Individuals cannot be taking anticoagulants (eg, Coumadin, aspirin) before the procedure. Good surgical judgment must be exercised when one considers surgery in individuals with potentially complicating medical conditions. Age is not a medical contraindication. The author has performed procedures on men in their late 70s. Ensure that such patients provide medical clearance from their internist.
Perhaps no single hair-loss condition calls for more conservatism in judgment than premature MPB. Teenagers and men in their early 20s are particularly self-conscious about hair loss because most of their peers still have full heads of hair. These young men often hold unrealistic expectations, desiring a youthful hairline that will not be appropriate as they age. Worse, early surgical correction uses a large number of donor hairs, which will be sparse in the future, potentially resulting in an unnatural look and a disappointed patient.
In general, attempt to delay the procedure in individuals in their 20s or younger, though the author has performed procedures in select individuals as young as 20 years. When counseling young men about hair loss, the author advises a conservative approach to give patients time to consider hair transplantation. If the patient and surgeon agree on transplantation, restore a relatively high hairline and instruct the patient to use minoxidil for the crown region. Perhaps in the future, as effective medical therapies that end or substantially slow MPB progression become available, a less conservative approach can be taken.
For a number of medical conditions that are associated with or that can cause hair loss, treatment with hair transplantation is not appropriate. Examples are the active phases of alopecia areata, lupus, and infections. Scalp conditions, such as vitiligo and psoriasis, must be evaluated because hair transplantation can aggravate them.
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