How hair transplants work
How hair transplants work
Introduction to Hair Transplants
Hair transplantation is a minor surgical technique for hair restoration which reliably and consistently restores hair, even to a bald scalp. The male hair transplanting technique relies on the fortunate fact that even men who lose a lot of hair will not lose the hair above the ears and the back of their heads. There are many older men with this characteristic ‘horseshoe’ shape of remaining hair to prove this fact. This is called the hair transplant donor area or the area left with a Norwood Stage 7 in the classification of hair loss.
For this reason, we work on the assumption that your hair loss will ultimately progress to Norwood stage 7 and only take hair from this region. This ensures that you will always have growing transplanted hair and that the donor area is always covered. In addition, this area is more densely packed with hair follicles than the rest of the head, even before hair loss starts. Women can also be helped by a female hair transplant. Although the type or pattern of female hair loss is different to a man, the hair transplant surgery technique is just the same and just as effective. The hair transplant donor area is also the same.
A Hair Transplant in detail.
Hair grows not as single hairs, like teeth in a comb, but in little bunches called ‘follicular units’. These form the basis of our ‘grafts’. Follicular units typically average two hairs, but they can be just one hair or even four hairs. Because Nature grows the hair this way, it makes sense to put the hair back in this way to achieve the most natural look (rather than splitting up all the follicular units into single hairs). This is called follicular unit hair transplanting or FUHT (Follicular Unit Hair Transplant). Firstly though, we need to remove the hair from the donor area before we can re implant it. This involves transplanting the whole follicle i.e. the hair bulb and surrounding structures from one part of the scalp to another. The process is similar to gardening on a microscopic level – if you are transplanting a daffodil bulb from one area to another, you can’t just transplant the leaves or flowers (hair) but you need the whole bulb, roots and shoots (the hair follicle). The average number of follicular unit grafts that we transplant in a single session is typically around 2000 (equivalent on average to 4000 hairs). The actual number required by each patient varies depending on size of area, the donor density, the recipient density, hair type, age, potential of future hair loss etc. In some suitable candidates we can perform 3000 grafts or more in a single session which is known as a mega session follicular unit hair transplant.
The Donor Area
Men’s hair is thicker, bushier and faster growing on the back and sides of the scalp, which is why men traditionally have a ‘short back and sides’ haircut. This means that we can transplant hair from this region and move it to where it is needed without the donor area looking thin too. There is obviously a limit to how much hair can be removed, but experience has shown that up to six sessions is a comfortable average. Female donor hair isn’t usually as thick or dense as a man’s so that limits the number of hair transplant sessions to usually three. Because the hair that we remove from the donor area is genetically programmed not to fall out because of male pattern baldness (MPB) or female pattern baldness (FPB), the hair will continue growing on the bald scalp, just as it would have done if it had remained in the donor area. That is why hair transplantation can give you your own hair growing again, and that is why it won’t fall out again. This basic theory has been shown to be true for the past 80 years, since Dr Okuda (and others) in the 1930’s first discovered hair transplantation was possible. There are currently two methods of taking hair from the scalp: the strip hair transplant method of hair transplantation and the FUE hair transplant method. Please note: the method of re-implanting the hair remains the same, irrespective of the method used to extract it. As a side note, body hair transplants are also possible i.e. transplanting from a hairy chest to the scalp. However, this a very variable technique using the FUE method and results at best, are only additional to a good hair transplant performed using scalp hair first. It is also important to understand that hair transplanting does not create new hair but redistributes the whole follicle from the donor area. It therefore cannot regenerate itself but much research is taking place into the technique of hair cloning or hair multiplication.
The Hair Transplant Recipient Area
This is the area which we want to put the hair transplants back into. Usually this is the scalp – frontal, temples, hairline, crown etc but can be the body. We commonly perform eyebrow hair transplants and hair restoration for traction alopecia and also less frequently for the other causes of hair loss, as pubic hair replacement.
Body hair transplant
You can in fact perform a hair transplant from anywhere on the body to another location, on the same person. So move leg hair to the scalp for instance. Interestingly, the transplanted hair grows more similar to the natural location hair i.e. a leg hair will become thicker, longer growing, straighter etc. However, it doesn’t become a fully formed scalp hair, only more similar and less like a leg hair.
Hair transplantation – is a type of hair loss surgery, there are other hair loss surgeries available – click here to find out more
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What our patients say
Dr Rogers Compliment Letter 2015 – SG
When I arrived at the clinic on Harley Street I was welcomed warmly by the staff and did not have to wait long before the Surgeon (Dr Richard Rogers) came and introduced himself. I then sat down with Dr Rogers who spent time getting to know me, asking very detailed questions. He then spent some time with me penciling on different hairlines giving me plenty of time to think, whilst giving his expert opinion and advice on what would look the most realistic. When I had decided on the placement of my new hair line Dr Rogers made sure that I was happy with the outline drawn one last time walking round showing me it from different angles using a mirror.
Through Dr Rogers being so intent on making sure I was 100% happy with the procedure before going ahead really helped me feel comfortable and sure with my decision. With my hairline drawn and having been made to feel completely relaxed by Dr Rogers I was walked to the surgery. Even then Dr Rogers continued to make me feel comfortable introducing me to each of his nurses and explaining each step to me in detail of what they would be doing whilst he performed the procedure.
Having talked through the procedure with me and going over everything in extreme detail Dr Rogers asked me to place myself on the chair and then began to adjust the position making sure that I was completely comfortable. Now that I was sat comfortably and ready for the procedure to begin Dr Rogers began to guide me through each step before doing so. To begin with he explained that he would be administering general anesthetic to numb the surrounding area, and told me that it may hurt a little like a pinch. However, I did not feel a thing! In fact I didn’t even realise Dr Rogers had begun, he was so gentle and light handed I was shocked and of course extremely pleased!
With the first part out of the way and the surrounding area completely numb, Dr Rogers told me that he would now begin to remove the strip of skin. At this stage I could honestly not believe how it was possible that I could not feel my skin being cut away. Throughout the procedure I was not once in pain and Dr Rogers continually made sure that I was ok and checked that I was in no kind of pain.
Better still Dr Rogers talked to me throughout the procedure and joined in with conversations between the nurses and myself. This really made me feel at ease and at times I nearly forgot that I was having a hair transplant. With my strip of skin removed and the nurses now taking each hair follicle from the skin, Dr Rogers began to stitch my skin back together. Even now I could not feel a thing and before I knew it Dr Rogers had finished.
Whilst the nurses continued to separate the hair follicles Dr Rogers offered me some water and asked if I had any food to eat to help boost my sugar levels. Once I had eaten a snack and topped myself up with water Dr Rogers made sure that I was comfortable before the procedure continued. He then explained that he would be administering some local anesthetic to the surrounding area for the hair follicles to be placed. With the area numbed and having been told what was to happen next Dr Rogers began to make tiny pin pricks into my skin for the hair follicles to be placed in by his nurses. I cannot stress enough how I did not feel a thing and it was over with so quickly, he was a magician with his hands! It was now time for the final part of the procedure; the nurses began to delicately place my hair follicles in one by one.
With the procedure now finished and my new hairline complete, I was given plenty of time to slowly sit myself up. Dr Rogers then offered me some water and food to help boost my sugar levels. Now that I had my bearings back, Dr Rogers walked me into a quiet room and showed me to a mirror. He then said that he would leave me for a few minutes to look at the hairline. After a few minutes had passed he knocked on the door and asked if I was happy with the outcome, to which I found myself near on speechless! I told him how happy I was with it and continually thanked him for doing such an amazing job.
He then asked me to take a seat and began to explain in detail how to care for my new hair each day and gave me a detailed plan on paper. He then gave me a spray that he explained would help to clean any blood away from the surrounding area. After making sure that I was completely happy with the outcome and asking if I had any questions Dr Rogers shook my hand and wished me the best of luck with my new hairline.