Hair Transplant Recovery Time – Short Term and Long Term

Hair Transplant Recovery Time

A hair transplant is the process of using hair from one part of the body to reduce or eliminate baldness on another. More specifically, a hair transplant is conducted to alleviate the effects (or again, eliminate completely) of scalp balding due to genetics. The procedure was first conducted in New York City, in 1952. Since that time, medical technology has made long strides with improving the process for both men and women. Today it is possible for hair transplant patients to experience full or near full hair growth in the treated area 12 to 18 months after having a transplant procedure.

Hair Transplant Recovery Time - Short Term and Long Term

Before a patient undergoes the process, most doctors will look at two main things:

  • How much hair the patient has lost

  • The health of the patient

For the first concern, doctors will usually compare what they see—or rather, what they don’t see—on a patient’s scalp to the Norwood Scale. The Norwood Scale is a seven stage classification method for determining the severity of a patient’s hair loss. As stage one progresses to stage seven, the severity increases. Once a patient reaches number 6 on the scale, the odds of achieving a successful transplant procedure drop considerably, though doctors will stress that it’s not impossible. Much depends on the patient’s health, the practitioner, and the fecundity of the donor area.

In regard to the former, it’s important for the patient to be as close to optimal health as possible. Hair transplant surgery is considered minimally invasive and low risk, but as with any procedure, the healthier the patient, the more successful things are going to turn out. Part of that success has to do with recovery time. Or more to the point—how long does it take and what, precisely, can the subject of a transplant procedure expect to experience?

Let’s start at the beginning. There are two common methods of conducting a hair transplant. One method, called follicular unit transplantation, involves removing a strip of scalp from the back of the head, cutting it into small sections, then implanting those sections into the balding area. A second technique, referred to as follicular unit extraction, will have the doctor creating tiny holes in the balding area and carefully placing individual follicles from a donor area into the holes.

Whichever method gets used, a patient can expect to spend about four hours on each session, with stitches being removed about ten days later. Depending on a patient’s position on the Norwood Scale, it can take up to five sessions to achieve a full head of hair. The sessions occur about three to four months apart to allow for healing time.

Recovery Time in the Short Term

As a patient heals between sessions, he or she may experience mild to moderate pain of the scalp. Doctors provide assurance that this is completely normal, and that there is medication to control the discomfort. A patient between sessions may be prescribed:

  • Simple pain medication

  • One to two tablets of paracetamol per day

      Patients may be asked to avoid pain-killers such as ibuprofen and aspirin for the first 48 hours after treatment, as the blood-thinners they contain increase the risk of bleeding

  • Antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection

  • Anti-inflammatory medication to control swelling

Before attending a transplant session, don’t forget to schedule a little downtime from work, about five days.

Three weeks to a month after each session, patients may notice that transplanted hair is beginning to fall out. Again, his or her doctor will give assurance that this is completely normal. It is simply the transplanted hair moving out of the way so new hair can grow. Indeed, about three months after a session, many patients will notice this new hair growth. And as mentioned already, the process typically completes after 12 to 18 months per four hour session.

Other tips that doctors will likely recommend immediately after surgery include:

  • Bed rest for the first 24 hours, sleeping with the head elevated at 45 degrees

  • Wait 24 hours before washing your hair, using baby shampoo only

  • Do not fondle or otherwise irritate the transplant area with physical contact

  • Exercise patience for the entire process

That last goes a long way toward getting patients into the next phase of the recovery process…

Recovery Time in the Long Term

About three months after a transplant session, new hair should begin to sprout on the treated area. This is an exciting time for the patient. At last, the results are beginning to show. So what else does he or she need to be prepared for? 

For starters, patients can expect around 60% new hair growth in just under a year. Again, this is per transplant area, per four hour session. Beyond this it is normal for a patient’s transplanted hair to develop into a similar thickness and feel as with when he/she was young. Transplanted hair will grow with the patient into old age, and can be cut and styled just as if no baldness had ever existed in the first place.

In rare instances, complications can manifest. One of these complications is known as folliculitis. This is when hair follicles become infected. A patient with folliculitis may develop a painful or itchy rash. That being said, the condition is easily treated and presents no cause for alarm. A hair transplant surgeon will likely recommend daily washing with antibacterial soap until symptoms disappear. Should the symptoms continue after 5-7 days, the surgeon may turn to antibiotics for treatment.

Another issue that could show in the long term is scalp laxity. For this reason, patients with a tighter scalp are usually steered away from choosing the FUT method of transplantation, as it can result in the skin tightening even more.

None of these risks should necessarily cause one considering hair transplant surgery to drop the matter entirely. The best way to find out what procedure, if any, is right for you is to discuss the options with your doctor. And who knows? It’s likely that in just a year’s time, you’ll have regained the youthful appearance of a man, or woman, with a full head of hair.

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