Hair replacement surgery has been performed for over 40 years now, and the techniques and results continue to improve and transform. During the procedure hair follicles are transferred from one section of the scalp to another in an effort to combat alopecia, or balding.
Alopecia affects both men and women, though men tend to experience the condition more frequently. Many individuals accept their hair loss as a part of the aging process, while others feel uncomfortable with their changing appearance. For those who seek cosmetic measures for their hair loss, hair replacement surgery may offer a promising solution.
Who Can Undergo Hair Replacement?
You should consider hair replacement surgery if you are experiencing hair loss — alopecia androgenetica or androgenetic alopecia — due to hormone imbalances and/or genetics. Other considerations involved in determining hair replacement candidates include:
- Donor fringe density
- Hair and skin color
- Hair texture
- Scalp laxity
Because hair replacement surgery relies on healthy hair grafts from the patients themselves, the ideal candidate for hair replacement surgery must have healthy hair growth either at the back or at the sides of the head.
What Happens During Hair Replacement?
Your procedure will be conducted in an outpatient setting using local and topical anesthesia, and will last about 4 hours. During surgery, hair grafts are taken from the donor site, or growth of healthy hair, that will be transferred to the recipient site, or balding area.
Dr. Sattler may implement a strip harvesting technique to gather hair in micro-grafts using a scalpel or multi-blade knife. Once gathered, the hair samples are even further divided into mini-grafts, which are then transplanted into tiny holes or slits made within the scalp. Micro-grafts and single-hair grafts placed along the frontal hairline help in creating a natural appearance.
Depending on the extent of your balding and the pattern it takes, flap surgery may or may not be used. In this step, a section of bald scalp is cut out and a flap of hair-bearing skin is lifted from the scalp's surface while still attached at one end. The hair-bearing flap is then brought into its new position while remaining "tethered" to the original blood supply.
Tissue expansion is another technique that may be implemented if extra skin tissue is needed during the transfer of hair from the donor to the recipient site. During this technique, a balloon-like device called a tissue expander is inserted beneath the air-bearing scalp that lies next to a bald section. The device inflates with saline over the course of several weeks, causing skin to expand and grow new skin cells. When the skin is adequately stretched, the expanded skin is transferred to cover the adjacent bald areas.
What to Expect After Surgery
Dr. Sattler will provide you with aftercare instructions tailored to your needs, but most patients will be asked to apply dressings to the area for a day or two after surgery, and are allowed to shampoo on the second or third day following surgery. You should expect some swelling, bruising and discomfort after surgery. Stitches are usually removed within 10 days, and the newly transplanted hair often falls out in six weeks following procedure. New hair growth will take about six to 12 weeks to develop, and should stabilize after about 1 year.
Please contact Dr. Sattler's plastic surgery practice in Glendora from nearby Arcadia or Azusa if you would like to learn about the benefits and costs of hair replacement surgery in the San Gabriel Valley area.