Complications of Hair Transplant Procedures: Is it Safe?Facial Plastic Surgery
Men and women suffering from baldness or thin hair usually seek help from medications, ointments, and different surgical procedures to regain their hair and confidence. However, all these methods carry some risks and side effects which may affect the treatment’s outcome or increase the chance of developing a disease. The following article reviews hair restoration procedures and discusses hair transplant side effects and risks.
Does Hair Transplant Work?
Hair transplant surgery has a relatively high success rate compared to medications and ointments. If a qualified plastic surgeon or dermatologist does this operation, more than %80 of transplanted hair follicles will survive and regrow. However, it must be mentioned that this method will not be as effective on people with severe hormonal problems, widespread baldness (no donor area), and scalp burns or injuries. Also, it may not work as expected on patients who have lost a part or all of their hair due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Common Side Effects of Hair Transplant
Hair transplant procedures often come with common, unavoidable side effects. To gain a better understanding of these complications, please read the following section:
- Hair shedding
- Scabbing and itching
- Pimples or folliculitis
All hair transplantation methods involve cuts or nicks, so bleeding is an unavoidable complication of hair transplant surgery. Adept surgeons use advanced techniques and tools to minimize blood loss and control post-op bleeding using specific pads and bandages. It is important to know that taking blood thinners before and after hair transplantation surgery increases the risk of bleeding and can have irreversible effects.
The hair transplant surgery is done under general or local anesthesia, depending on the type and extent of the procedure; therefore, you will not feel even the slightest pain during the procedure, but most patients feel mild to moderate soreness in their scalp for two weeks following the surgery which can be controlled by taking prescribed pain medications.
Despite expecting hair growth right after hair transplant surgery, almost all patients experience severe hair shedding between 1 to 6 weeks after the procedure. The main reason for hair shedding is that the follicles are temporarily cut off from their blood supply. Fortunately, the roots of the follicles start growing from the third month after the operation, and the hair gets thick again.
Swelling is another common side effect of hair transplant surgery which may extend from under the eyes to the back of the head. Sometimes, swelling is accompanied by bruising, especially on the forehead and parts of the scalp where the skin is thin. Although swelling is a sign of healing, many patients find it extremely bothersome. The good news is that most inflammation subsides within 10 days, and the residual swelling goes down almost two months after the surgery.
Scabbing and itching
Perhaps the most irritating complication of hair transplant is scabbing and itching. To remove the scabs and reduce the itching, you can frequently wash your head with prescribed shampoo and lukewarm water or use sprays provided by your doctor. Like swelling and bruising, the itching will be reduced almost two weeks after the operation and completely gone a month after the surgery.
The numbness of the scalp after a hair transplant can be attributed to nerve damage or anesthetics used during the procedure. If your surgeon is experienced enough not to damage the nerves and vessels in your skin, you will not experience prolonged numbness.
After hair transplantation surgery, there will be either a linear scar or small dot-shaped ones on the donor and recipient areas. Fortunately, the hair strands cover the scars as they grow.
Pimples or folliculitis
Emerging pimples and small bumps on the scalp are less common than other complications of hair transplant surgery, but some patients get them a week after the operation. The scalp pimples usually emerge due to inflammation in the hair follicles, accumulation of skin oil in the pores, ingrown hair follicles, infection, and skin allergic reactions to anesthetics and medications. It should be noted that popping up the blemishes can worsen them, so you should refrain from touching and scrubbing them until they fall off.
Complications of Hair Transplant Techniques
In this section, we discuss the complications of different hair transplant techniques.
FUE side effects
- Making deep holes may cause the formation of cysts;
- Severe scarring;
- Sharp pain in donor area;
- Change in the sensation of the scalp;
- Thinning of the donor area;
FUT side effects
- Formation of hypertrophic scars;
- Improper or delayed wound healing;
- Hair shedding in the donor area;
- Moderate pain.
DHI side effects
- Reaction to anesthesia;
- Irregular heart rate due to anesthesia;
- Undesirable results;
- Severe hair loss if the skin rejects the new follicles;
- Moderate pain;
- Dizziness and headache.
How to Prevent Hair Transplant Side Effects?
Some hair transplant side effects, like pain and numbness, are unpreventable and natural. Still, some complications, such as infection, itching, bleeding, and excessive crusting, can be prevented or, at least, minimized greatly by considering the following points.
- Choose a skilled surgeon and a high-quality clinic with standardized protocols;
- Massage your scalp for at least two weeks before the operation to prepare your skin for the procedure. This will reduce the risk of scaring;
- Wash your head with proper shampoo the day before the surgery to minimize the risk of infection;
- Take prescribed medications such as antihistamines to control the itching;
- With the permission of your doctor, use a cold compress on your forehead and around your eyes to help the swelling and bruising go down;
- Maintain good hygiene to prevent pimples and cysts, and
- Avoid any activity, medication, or unhealthy habit that elevates your blood pressure or thins your blood; otherwise, you will have severe bleeding during and after the procedure.
Short-term Vs. Long-term Side Effects of Hair Transplant
Short-term side effects of hair transplant surgery include numbness, pain, redness of the scalp’s skin, crust formation, pimples, swelling, and bruising. Luckily, these side effects go away one to two weeks after the surgery, either by using medications or on their own. The long-term side effects of hair restoration surgery are rare but possible. Some problems like the wrong direction of hair strands, damage to nerves, scalp laxity, a severe infection that causes folliculitis, and visible scarring can linger a bit longer or cause discomfort for a long time. If you follow your surgeon’s post-op tips, most hair transplant side effects will be resolved quickly.
FAQs About Hair Transplant Side Effects
1) Are hair transplant side effects more common in men or women?
Generally speaking, women with hormonal problems, sensitive skin, and anemia are more prone to severe hair loss after hair transplant surgery than men.
2) What causes hair transplant complications?
Inappropriate pre- and post-operation care, poor hygiene, inadequate experience of the surgeon, and non-sterile condition of the operation room are the main causes of hair transplant complications.
3) Is hair transplant dangerous?
Many patients are concerned about the long-term side effects of hair transplant surgery and whether it causes serious health issues. It should be mentioned that this cosmetic procedure is safe and has far more advantages than drawbacks.
4) Is hair transplant high risk?
Despite being a safe procedure, hair transplantation surgery has some risks, such as infection, bleeding, and severe scarring.