Why All Hair Transplant Surgeries Aren’t Created Equal
Bob and Joe: A Hypothetical Scenario
Suppose you have a close friend who recently underwent a hair transplant procedure. We’ll call him ‘Bob.’ Bob told you beforehand about his hair transplant. You see Bob often, and a few months after his procedure, you still don’t perceive any difference in his hair. You’re starting to wonder if Bob’s results were worth the hassle and expense.
Now suppose that you catch up with an acquaintance you haven’t seen in several years. We’ll call him Joe. When you last saw Joe, he wasn’t completely bald, but he was definitely receding.
Now, however, Joe’s hairline is much improved. The difference is noticeable—dramatic even. Joe looks much different compared to when you last saw him. He confesses that yes, he had a hair transplant a couple years ago.
You think, “Poor Bob; he wasted his money. He should’ve talked to Joe before having a hair transplant. Bob must’ve done something wrong. Maybe his doctor wasn’t very good.”
You’ve been considering undergoing a hair transplant yourself. You decide that when you’re ready, you will go to Joe’s doctor. They seem to really know their stuff.
Breaking Through the Myths
Is this a fair assessment of Bob and Joe’s procedures? It could be, but probably not. The truth is, it’s complicated. One aspect of this hypothetical story is indisputable: It’s far too soon to know if Bob wasted his time and money. More on that in a moment.
As with any surgical procedure, many factors can play a role in the results. The same is true of a hair transplant. Many variables can impact hair transplant results. Here are a few to consider as you think about your own hair restoration options.
Each patient is born with a given number of hair follicles. On average, you have between 80,000-100,000 hairs on your head at peak. This maximum number of growing hair follicles is usually achieved in puberty and, due to genetics, can either slowly diminish over one’s life, or in the case of extensive male pattern baldness, may rapidly decline starting at age 18.
The texture and diameter of each follicle also varies widely from patient to patient. Some people have baby-fine, limp hair, while others have coarse, curly hair. Most fall somewhere in between. Both factors are entirely hereditary. However, just because one patient has fewer hair follicles (or finer ones) than another, doesn’t automatically mean he/she is more likely to go bald.
Patients with coarse, curly hair get a little more “bang for their buck” when transplanted compared to patients with fine, straight hair. Coarse, curly hair simply provides more volume than fine hair, but these patients have equally-favorable survival rates when transplanted.
The type of baldness a patient experiences is often dictated by genetics. For example, the majority of hair transplant patients suffer from male/female pattern baldness. Transplant results for these patients is generally very good.
Other types of baldness do not respond quite so favorably to hair transplant surgery. For example, hair transplants are NOT recommended for patients whose hair loss is due to undiagnosed thyroid disorder, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, or other medical conditions.
Moreover, patients with extensive balding—Norwood pattern 6 or 7—may be able to restore their hairline to some degree, but they’ll never be able to achieve a full head of hair through transplantations. Whereas a patient with milder hair loss—Norwood patter 3-4—can achieve great results with 1 or 2 procedures.
The use of tobacco can have a pronounced impact on surgical outcomes. Because nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, it results in decreased blood flow to the scalp (and to all parts of the body). Additionally, smoking decreases the amount of oxygen contained in the smoker’s blood. These two factors can combine to significantly diminish a patient’s capacity to heal from the procedure, while increasing the likelihood of scarring, infection, and failure of transplanted follicles.
Adherence Level to Post-Op Instructions
Following hair transplant surgery, your surgeon will provide a detailed list of instructions to follow regarding wound care, grooming, medication, exercise, and other activities. Patients who follow these instructions closely are far-more likely to obtain maximum benefit from their hair restoration procedure. Patients who don’t may have slower healing and find their results less satisfactory.
The Skill and Experience Level of Your Surgeon
Transplant surgeons come from a variety of medical backgrounds. They must have an M.D. or a D.O. to practice medicine, and you should know their credentials. Is he/she board certified? The most-qualified hair transplant surgeons are medical doctors trained in dermatology; this is because dermatology is the only specialty that includes training to diagnose and treat hair disorders. Also, you should know how long has your surgeon been performing hair transplant procedures. How many of them has he/she performed?
Although hair transplantation surgery isn’t as risky as other surgeries, it requires a highly skilled and experienced medical professional. With procedures like follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or a robotic Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), the potential for human error exists.
Additionally, if you do experience a complication, you want a highly trained medical professional you can rely on to help you recover as quickly and fully as possible.
The Time Factor
Going back to our hypothetical scenario, a few weeks’ or months’ simply isn’t sufficient to fully gauge the effectiveness of Bob’s procedure. Although hair transplantation can make you look and feel like a new person, it won’t do so overnight. Most patients require 12-14 months to reap the full benefits.
In the realm of hair restoration surgery, patience is truly a virtue.
In a sense, comparing Bob and Joe is like comparing green bananas to perfectly ripened ones. Joe’s had plenty of time for his transplanted follicles to take root and grow new hair. Joe’s lifestyle factors were probably favorable too. You’ve known Joe long enough to know he’s good at following instructions. He likely followed his surgeon’s instructions to the letter.
If Bob’s genetic and lifestyle profiles are comparable to Joe’s, and his surgeon is reputable, his long-term surgical outcome is likely to also be favorable. He just needs time. If all other things are equal (e.g., hair color, texture, etc.) one year from the date of surgery, Bob’s results will be similar to Joe’s.
At Limmer HTC, we’re experts in hair loss and hair restoration. We’ve worked with many clients, helping them achieve a new outlook on life through a fuller head of hair. We’ll help uncover the underlying causes of your hair loss and explain your best options for restoration.
Contact Limmer Hair Transplant Clinic today and let’s get to work on your hair restoration needs.