A full head of hair is a matter of pride for everyone since it is not so common today. Baldness is so common today that when it sets in, it is a reason for despair in most and depression and poor self-image for others. However, with the advent and acceptability of surgical hair restoration today, there is relief to the hapless sufferer of androgenetic alopecia.
You need to consult an experienced hair transplant surgeon before you think of a hair transplant. This is an elaborate, time consuming and skilled process, where the surgeon picks hair follicles from the back and side parts of the head and moves them to the bald places. Since it is a surgical procedure and a lengthy one at that, and since hair follicles available for relocation are limited, one has to be aware of the side effects and what can go wrong medically.
Though in a good facility it is rare to get a complication, the way hair transplant is practised today in technician run clinics without adequate training and supervision, the following complications are increasing:
The first and foremost risk related to any surgery is infection. Hair transplant is a surgical process and entails numerous punch incisions in the donor area and slit incisions equal to the number of the punch hole incisions in the recipient area. An unhygienic operation room and careless operators not mindful of sterie technique can play havoc with your procedure and more so your health. Reuse of instruments without adequate sterilisation has its hazards in causing bacterial and viral infections (HIV, Hepatitis B&C, etc.). Prophylactic antibiotics are administered during and after the procedure and are a must.
The surgeon transplants hundreds or thousands of hair from one place to another in the hair transplant process. This obviously results in cuts and holes, which can further cause blood loss if surgical procedures and principles are ignored due to lack of training and a casual mindset. This is also due to improper specialist preoperative workup of the patient. A person on blood thinners needs to stop medicines 5 days before the procedure. Those taking Tab Aspirin and other platelet disaggregators, have to be counseled accordingly. Rogaine causes increased blood supply to the scalp and must be stopped 7 days before the procedure. Patients on herb diets need to inform the doctor well in advance. Any form of infection on the scalp that is preexisting will need to be treated before the patient can be taken up for the surgery since it can lead to increased blood loss during the procedure. Otherwise in the ideal situation, blood loss is never more than 30-50 ml. The bottom line is that hair transplant is a surgical process and proper surgical procedures need to be followed.
After going through a hair transplant, your scalp may get sensitive and causes itching, which is a quite common occurrence after this surgery. Itching is a sign of healing in the immediate post-operative phase and in the late period at 3-5 months when hair are breaking out of the skin, it is a welcome sign of growth and one should not be disheartened. This itching can easily be treated so when it becomes excessive, you must consult your surgeon.
A common complaint after the procedure in some clinics, it is due to cheap instruments that go beyond the recommended depth of puncture and injure the vessels underneath. These vessels when punctured leak and the blood with gravity seeps down to the eyes and upper and middle face. Clinics that employ good technique and instrumentation, seldom encounter this side effect of hair transplant that can be alarming to the patient and family alike. It also considerably lengthes the recovery downtime. Besides this if you have traveled abroad for a hair transplant, and your return journey is previously paid for, the airlines reserve the right to deny boarding to passengers who do not look to be in good health. Therefore, when you travel abroad, choose a reliable clinic to which you have recommendations and not select a clinic on a mere whim because their website looks awesome and the rates are rock bottom. It’s your body after all so take care it does not get abused surgically.
Transient numbness is normal after a hair transplant in the recipient area since incisions cut the superficial network of branching unnamed nerves. This however always resolves in 6-12 weeks. In the days of the FUT technique, donor area numbness was a concern since the cut goes deep and sometimes, due to damage to the nerves, this was permanent. FUE is a minimally invasive procedure where the incisions are 2 mm deep in the donor and 4 mm deep in the recipient area. Since nerve and blood vessels course 12 mm under the skin surface, they are safe if the depth is not exceeded.
Injections during the anesthetising process are mostly well tolerated since the procedure is slow and various diverting tactics like vibrating device ice and pressure prevent pain sensations to load the spinal cord pathways by the ‘Gate Principle’ of Pain. However some people are hyper-anxious. They may need a bit of sedation. At our clinic a full time anesthetist is on duty and is independently trying to make the procedure completely pain free for you. Pain after the procedure does not occur and you are covered with pain medications for the heaviness you may feel for 3 days which is usual. On the 5-7th day, nerve pain happens in less than 5% patients and this is due to the surface nerves that are sending out healing impulses. If it prevents you from sleeping and is disturbing, consult us and we will recommend medications that will cure it within 24-48 hours. Care for pain is also written on the reverse page of your prescription. It is however rare for patients to need to turn the page!
Due to poor technique of harvesting, epidermis may get buried under the skin. If not dealt with immediately due to improper technique, casual hurried disposition in a busy tech clinic, or when the technician or surgeon is ignorant of this risk, cysts develop and they may be persistent and troublesome. They keep getting inflamed, infected and burst every now and then.
Millions of people have opted for the hair surgery and they are happy with it. However since this is a surgical procedure some complications may happen but as long as they are minor and can be dealt with and do not persist, it is fine. Problems happen when a clinic due to ignorance or apathy, cuts corners and throws surgical caution to the winds. This is when disasters happen.
Be careful in your research. Visit the facility. Speak to patients. Insist on seeing the operation room and get clarifications from the doctor. There is so much knowledge on the internet today that if you fall prey to unethical clinics you only have yourself to blame.