Hair Transplantation Expectations – What to Expect Before and After

The single most important factor that determines the success of cosmetic surgery is, how satisfied the patient is with the outcome, and whether this is what was expected. Preoperative counseling regarding recovery and the procedure is equally important. Whether through discussions, or presentations or brochures, the patient should be given enough knowledge to develop a deep understanding of how each phase is important in determining the desired outcome.

A hair transplant procedure is relatively safe and carries a very low risk of complications [1]. Most of the complications that exist are avoidable with proper surgical techniques and wound care. Here are some potential complications of the procedure;

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Edema
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Drug-induced complication
  • Patient dissatisfaction (since it’s a cosmetic procedure)

While the procedure itself may be smooth, the recovery could be somewhat surprising, especially if you aren’t well aware of the hair growth cycle and its timelines. Therefore it is important to discuss recovery in as much detail as the procedure itself because patient counseling and proper planning play a vital role in avoiding patient dissatisfaction, and declaring the surgery a success.

 

IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS

With all the scabbing around the follicles, your scalp may not be very visually appealing immediately after the procedure. The transplanted follicles will now be in their new spots and you’ll be able to see your new hairline.

As far as scabbing is concerned, incisions are small and heal quickly. It is important to let scabs fall out on their own. If you pick them or scratch them, you might pull the follicles out.  You may be given painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics to tackle the pain, inflammation and prevent infection respectively. Your surgeon will have you wear bandages for a few days after surgery as well. You can read more about our Post Op Care Here.

The donor site has undergone trauma and some form of swelling should be expected however this will also subside in a few days. Forehead swelling, if any will also subside in a few days. In the case of the FUT/Strip procedure, there will be numbness that may take up to a couple of months to get resolved. Expect minor tenderness at the graft implantation site. For a smooth and quick recovery make sure you follow your surgeon’s advice like;

  • Keeping your head elevated while sleeping, since sleeping with the head and feet at the same level can cause edema
  • Instructions regarding showering and hair washing
  • Avoiding exercises that increase the circulation in the scalp leading to bleeding.

The more you take care of your scalp during these days, the better the chances of a successful transplant, and the quicker the minor effects like swelling and discomfort resolve. Normal activities and exercises can ideally be resumed within a week unless advised otherwise.

A healthy and balanced diet is of great importance during this period. Even though the follicles have been transplanted, your cells need to be nourished and any nutritional deficiency at this point can’t be afforded. Make sure you get enough Zinc, Magnesium, and vitamin B.  Also, avoid alcohol, junk food and smoking.

While it is important to be cautious and take care of the hair and scalp throughout the recovery, the first few days are crucial and it is best to take as many precautions as possible. Avoid chemicals and use only the products given or advised by the surgeon.

 

TWO TO THREE WEEKS LATER…

This phase of recovery might come as a surprise to you, especially if you are not familiar with the natural hair growth cycle and transplant recovery basics. Why? Because your newly transplanted hair will begin to fall out. To understand why this is completely normal, you need to understand that shedding of old hair is a natural part of the cycle and this is how new hairs are made. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a majority of the transplanted hair falls out within 6 weeks [2]. The newly transplanted hair essentially goes into a dormant phase.

So when will your new hair be visible? In another few months, that is once this dormant phase is fully over. Hair grows 1cm per month and for you to have a fair idea of the results of the procedure you will have to wait for 5-6 months minimum, and the final and complete look is achieved in 1-1.5 years. This is the point when your recovery is complete and now the transplanted hairs behave just like your natural hair.

Hair growth post-transplant doesn’t happen overnight and despite investing time, money, and effort in getting the procedure done, it’s unrealistic to expect quick results. It is very important to understand how the recovery moves from one phase to another and that the outcome you pictured will take time but will be life-long. Equally important is to acknowledge that post-operative recovery is highly dependent on efficient post-operative care because insufficient post-operative care is one of the major reasons behind an unsuccessful hair transplant.

 

Follow-up Procedures

Follow-up or touch up procedures are not for everyone, but once the swelling subsides and incisions heal, you may require another procedure to achieve a more natural-looking result. This can be achieved using a combination of mini-grafts, slit-grafts, or micro grafts depending on what your doctor decides to do to fill in the hairline.

Discussing recovery, its various phases, its timelines, the need for touch-up procedures, and aftercare is therefore of immense importance during the early consultations. While this gives the patient an understanding of the procedure, post-operative phase, and possibility of complications that can seriously spoil the outcome, it also gives the surgeon an idea of your expectations and an opportunity to manage them quite early in the entire hair restoration episode.

 

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371733/

[2] https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/hair-transplant/recovery