Can a Hair Transplant Fail?
It’s intimidating for anyone to go under-the-knife. After all, there are always potential health risks including infection, scarring or adverse reactions—even for minor surgical procedures.
But when it comes to hair transplant procedures specifically, what other complications could arise? Can a hair transplant procedure actually fail? And if they can, how can patients ensure they only receive the best results?
In rare circumstances—yes—it is possible for hair transplants to fail. However, in the far majority of these rare cases, failure occurs because of incompetence from an unqualified hair restoration surgeon.
So, how do you choose the right surgeon to minimize any risk of a hair transplant failure? As long as you do your due diligence, ask questions and choose a reputable, certified center, the failure of a hair transplant is highly unlikely.
Just remember, there’s no official ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties) residency or fellowship for physicians to learn the intricate hair transplant process. Technically, any physician with a license from any specialty can decide they want to tackle hair transplant, but only dermatologists are specifically trained in hair disorders and skin surgery. It takes years of intense study, practice, plus some natural talent to understand how to get the right look for each patient and ensure the procedure has fantastic—and permanent—results.
How Do Hair Transplants Work?
To properly comprehend how hair transplants can fail, it’s important first know the basics of how hair transplants work.
Currently, the two types of hair transplant procedures are the follicular unit excision (FUE) and the follicular unit transplantation (FUT). As long as the procedure is done correctly, both the FUE and FUT create incredible results that appear completely natural to the naked eye.
Both procedures involve taking thousands of tiny grafts from the patient’s donor area of the scalp. Each graft contains a hair follicle with 1–3 hairs each. Then, small incisions are made on the patient’s balding areas and the grafts are carefully inserted.
Within three to six months, the patient will start seeing their own hair sprout. Once the hair has grown in, there will be no noticeable scarring.
Hair transplants have significantly evolved since first introduced decades ago. No longer are recipients stuck with those obviously-looking “plugs” of yesteryear. Enhanced technology now allows surgeons to make 1mm incisions, or smaller, to harvest individual hair follicles when using the FUE technique instead of the old-fashioned procedure requiring 3–4mm incisions. Or, when a trichophytic surgical closure is performed with a FUT, the linear scar is no more than 1-2mm in width.
However, keeping up with modern hair transplant techniques also means keeping up with proper training. Though a couple of millimeters sounds insignificant, surgeons must undergo extensive training to learn how to properly execute updated procedures like this. Otherwise, at best, results might turn out shoddy. At worst, the transplant could completely fail.
Why Do Hair Transplants Fail?
So, what exactly happens when a hair transplant fails? There is a lot that can go wrong to cause hair follicles to die during the tedious process: The follicles harvested from the donor area can be transected due to poor harvesting technique, they can undergo undo stress through rough handling, they can be left outside the body for too long, they can dry out if not in the right storage solution, or they can be improperly implanted into the balding areas. All of these factors can lead to poor growth of your precious hair. A hair transplant failure can appear as anything from sparse coverage to uneven growth to the complete absence of all hair follicles.
The failure of hair follicles leads to more than just a less-than-pleasing head of hair. Patients can also experience very visible scarring. Now, patients are not only bald—their head is also significantly disfigured.
A hair transplant failure can also include the overharvesting of the donor area. Everyone has a finite number of healthy hair follicles. Once removed, there’s no putting them back nor will they grow back. If a surgeon takes too many FUE grafts too close together or takes too wide of a strip that makes the closure very tight, it can lead to unsightly scarring in the donor area. This may be hard to cover up when your hair regrows or worse yet, there will be patchy and permanent unnatural growth.
Well-trained surgeons know how much hair to take from a patient’s donor area without going overboard. They also err on the side of taking less follicles, in order to leave some for future procedures since the unfortunate truth of balding is that there is no cure. Native hair will continue to thin so if your doctor overharvests on the first go round, it can lead to regrets later.
How Do I Find a Trusted Hair Transplant Surgeon?
Unfortunately, undertrained surgeons, those with an antiquated skillset—or never even received proper training in the first place—do take advantage of desperate people looking for fuller hair on a budget.
Hair transplants surgeries are complicated procedures. It takes a highly qualified, experienced surgeon and their staff to properly execute the operation. Continuing medical education and training for the entire staff is an integral part of every hair transplant clinic so the team can constantly improve their techniques.
Sometimes, previously legitimate hair restoration practices decide to go the low-cost route. Rather than waste the time or money necessary to learn proper, up-to-date techniques, they instead make do with any training they have, to keep prices down.
Also, some doctors advertise their services as hair loss solutions within medical spas, dermatology offices and cosmetic surgery centers. However, these doctors and technicians often aren’t formally trained in hair transplantation at all.
These clinics survive by convincing people suffering from baldness that hair loss is a simple, minimally-invasive procedure available, sometimes a low price, that anyone can perform rather than the complex surgery it truly is.
The truth is that high-quality hair restoration surgery isn’t cheap, and for good reason. Exceptional training, regular practice and stellar teams take time and money. However, when the alternative could mean a failed hair transplant—the price is worth every penny.
Don’t risk your hair restoration with any clinic. Trust the professionals with years of high-quality care and amazing results. Our expert team at Limmer HTC can’t wait to answer every question and ensure you receive the full, lush hair you deserve. Call us today at (210) 496-9992 at or set up an appointment online anytime.
[The images in this article do not reflect hair transplants performed by the Limmer Hair Transplant Center. Cover photo demonstrates poor hairline design and sparse graft growth after 2600 grafts performed with FUE method]