Page: 4 of 7

Surgical treatments for hair loss

Reviewers say that hair transplants have come a long way since the days of hair plugs. The old versions used grafts containing several hairs that created unnatural-looking results. Paula Begoun explains that today's technology allows surgeons to perform "microscopic dissection at the back of the head to produce hair grafts" of just one to four hairs. This type of operation, performed under local anesthesia, is called the follicular-unit grafting technique. The micro- or mini-grafts are then inserted with hypodermic needles or with a small scalpel into slits between existing hairs in thinning areas. Doctors say that the transplanted hair will fall out after approximately two to four weeks followed by new hair growth about three months later. This new hair is permanent and has little to no risk of balding or thinning.

Specialists interviewed at USA Today all agree that hair transplant surgery is by far the "most effective method" for hair loss treatment, but few recommend it as a first choice. That may be due in part to the high costs involved - prices range from $3,000 to $7,000 per session and may require multiple sessions depending on the extent of hair loss. Another reason might be that doctors usually prefer that a patient's balding pattern has stabilized and suggest that only men who have experienced hair loss due to AGA for more than five years go forward with the surgery. The American Hair Loss Association explains that "not everyone is a good candidate for the surgery and those who are must have realistic expectations before undergoing a hair transplant procedure."

Experts say that most women are not good candidates for hair transplants due to the diffuse pattern in which they lose their hair. Women tend to lose hair evenly over the entire scalp, making all hair susceptible to loss and not ideal for transplanting. Exceptions to this are women who have permanently lost hair due to trauma, burns or cosmetic procedures.

Experts across the board all warn that careful consideration is required when choosing a surgeon. That's because any licensed physician in the United States and Canada can legally perform hair transplant surgeries without any professional training. Begoun says, "This lack of licensing or coursework requirements means that it's easy for the consumer to end up with disappointing and inferior results, such as visible scarring, patching, fuzzy hair, or even more hair loss." An article in Sarasota magazine also suggests that patients choose someone who is detail-oriented and that they should expect their surgeon to have "an artist's eye, as it is the surgeon who will recreate the hairline, making sure it is age-appropriate and attractive." The American Hair Loss Association provides a detailed list of suggested questions to ask during a consultation.

Back to top