Hair Transplant Complications
When we hear of a new medication, treatment, or procedure for hair loss, we focus on the benefits before addressing any possible side effects or issues.
For example, with a hair transplant, there are plenty of cases where the surgeon is highly trained, the procedure goes well, and the results are long-lasting and satisfactory. However, there is always the off-chance of complications with any surgery, hair transplants included.
Let’s talk about a few complications that might happen during a hair transplant or the recovery process, including potential side effects or issues from a visual standpoint.
We’ll also cover some essential tips on how to help you keep these complications to a minimum or avoid them altogether. Let’s get started.
When you undergo surgery of any kind, you’re taking at least some risk, and there is no exception to this rule for hair transplantation.
Here are some of the general complications that can occur when getting a hair transplant procedure of any kind.
Reactions to Medications
A hair transplant will typically begin with the injection of a local anesthetic to the donor area – typically the back of the head near the neck – and the recipient areas of the scalp.
There is no reaction to this medication in the vast majority of cases, and things will proceed as usual.
Thankfully, patients do not need a high dosage of relief medication or general anesthesia to undergo a hair transplant.
Aesthetic Issues and Errors
The process of hair transplantation is a bit different from other types of surgery in that there are artistic and technical aspects to the procedure that will impact the results.
The follicle units harvested from the donor area are only a few millimeters long, as are the incisions on the scalp that must be made for transplantation. With all of these factors in mind, the surgeon and the team may make errors that may not be noticeable for several months after the procedure has been completed.
For example, grafts could be placed at an angle that goes against the “grain” of the hair, or the density of these grafts may be too concentrated or spread out, creating an unnatural look.
The goal of a hair transplant is to make new grafts appear just as natural hair would grow on the head, including the correct angle, density, pattern, and other factors. There is also the issue of forming an aesthetic hairline and ensuring that hair remains healthy and stable in place.
Other Side Effects and Concerns
With any type of hair transplant, the patient canexperience infection in the donor area or the recipient area. This is due to the series of incisions made on the recipient area and the varying harvest methods we’ll discuss further.
While there’s less than a 1% chance for serious infection, it’s important that surgeons and patients are extremely cautious about hygiene and keeping the area clean before and after the procedure.
More commonly, patients mayexperience itching, irritation, and some unsightly scabbing or crusting on the recipient area. This is almost impossible to avoid on some level and isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the body is simply doing its best to heal damage to the skin.
Lastly, there can be a problem of scarring, which can also occur in both patient and recipient regions of the head.
The severity and visibility of scars can depend on the patient’s skin type, ability to heal, and mostly, the technical abilities of the doctor performing the procedure.
Procedure Types and Potential Risks
Since several types of hair transplant techniques are used, different complications mayoccur based on these varying methods and technologies.
Keep these points in mind when choosing a procedure and making essential decisions about doctors, clinics, and other factors.
Follicular Unit Transplant
The most popular type of hair transplant is FUT, which will be the likely choice for the typical client. As far as complications go, there are a few considerations to point out.
Firstly, FUT is also known as strip surgery, meaning the donor hair is harvested through a long, horizontal portion of skin from the back of the head.
Since there is a considerable amount of blood flow in this area, there are usually few issues when healing. Still, it’s essential to be highly aware of the incision point when recovering from FUT. Donor area complications can include infection, issues with sutures, and numbness or persistent discomfort in the area.
Another potential problem with FUT surgery is the high volume of follicles that must be grafted to the recipient area, which increases the chances of complications on the scalp.
FUT is the best-known technique for performing “mega session” hair transplants with many thousands of grafts in a single procedure, which means that surgeons and technicians will work for longer periods with higher amounts of follicles to process and graft.
With greater concentrations of grafts, patients may be more likely to experience crusting, swelling, bleeding, or tenderness following the procedure, and recovery will typically take longer on both the donor and recipient areas.
Higher graft volumes are usually par for the course with most FUT procedures, and with proper aftercare, complications can be avoided. Also, keep in mind that you will need to be more discerning when choosing a doctor and clinic because FUT is much more widely practiced.
Follicular Unit Excision
A less common hair transplant technique, FUE, has not been around as long as FUT, and requires more labor and experience for the doctor to perform the procedure.
The key difference here is the method by which hair is harvested from the back of the scalp. Rather than a strip of hair-bearing skin, FUE surgeons use a precise instrument to pinpoint and extract individual follicle units from the donor area, then process the units for grafting.
The result is a low overall yield of usable hair and a longer, more expensive surgical process. However, many clients are intrigued by FUE for smaller, more targeted transplants and that no horizontal scar is formed on the back of the head.
Still, there are complications in both the recipient and donor areas when undergoing FUE, and clients should be aware of these.
The most common FUE complication is an aesthetic one. The donor site can have a moth-eaten or patchy appearance due to overharvesting of follicles or mismanagement of the area. There also might be some minor scarring on the donor site that can be uncomfortable or lead to minor medical issues.
The patchy look can often be avoided by growing hair a bit longer, but this defeats the purpose of FUE surgery for patients who want to wear close-cropped hair. Furthermore, donor area depletion can leave the area looking thin and uneven, even with longer hairstyles.
Finally, patients should be aware of problems with transection (damage to the follicles) when recovering from FUE since the hair may not be as strong and durable compared to those harvested via FUT.
Other Hair Replacement Procedures
Hair transplants are more popular than ever. With the widespread interest in procedures like FUT and FUE, more surgeons and clinics are offering surgeries such as hairline lowering for women and eyebrow and facial hair transplants.
While these practices are still gaining traction and support from the hair restoration and cosmetic surgery community, they rely on the same technologies and techniques as standard hair transplants. The back of the head still yields the best donor hair, and incisions are made with similar instruments used in FUT and FUE.
With comparable fundamentals, this means that similar complications can occur, and patients must be aware of the potential for infection, scarring, and other aesthetic or medical issues when undergoing these procedures.
Generally, hair restoration specialists who have demonstrated exceptional technique in FUE and FUT are better suited for these other types of surgeries and should be trusted over cosmetic and plastic surgeons.
To minimize complications of hair transplantation or avoid them altogether, there are a few essential tips to remember.
Pick the Right Surgeon and Clinic
Your surgeon and clinic really make all the difference when undergoing hair transplant surgery, whether it’s FUT, FUE, or some other type of treatment for eyebrows or facial hair.
Be sure to do extensive research online and in-person to find the best possible specialist, and during the consultation, aim for a complete assessment of your hair restoration needs.
The best surgeons will recommend a transplant in conjunction with other treatments and medications to ensure the best, long-lasting results for you.
Follow Recovery and Aftercare Instructions
The recovery process can beconsiderably more challenging for the patient compared to the surgery itself. However, by sticking to the instructions from the doctor, they can avoid complications and keep discomfort to a minimum.
From hygiene and medication to sleep and lifestyle tips, patients must make no assumptions or take any shortcuts for recovery and aftercare. This could mean the difference between satisfactory results and serious issues.
Be Confident in Your Game Plan
If you’re eager to explore your options for hair transplant but fearful about complications, connect with a top specialist in the field and go over your specific concerns.
Discussing the potential problems and determining solutions in advance will help put these uncertainties to rest and ensure you’re in the right hands for a hair transplant.
Risks of Hair Transplant Surgery | American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Hair Transplant | Cleveland Clinic