What is the success rate of hair transplants?

Male hair loss can severely affect a person’s identity, self-confidence, and happiness. Hair loss can be caused by many things as it has genetic, hormonal, nutritional and age-related causes. It affects over 40% of men and stress, poor nutrition, too high and low body fat percentage, and certain medications can also be causal factors. Male pattern balding is also called androgenic alopecia, as it is mainly linked to the Androgens, sex hormones.

Hair growth occurs in a cycle of four stages. Anagen (growth phase), Catagen (transition phase), Telogen (resting phase) and Exogen (shedding phase). Genetics, medications, poor diet, smoking and hormone unbalances can affect this cycle. The most common cause of hair loss in men is genetics and hormones.

Hair Transplants

There are many types of hair loss. These can include androgenic alopecia (baldness linked to hormones), telogen effluvium (temporary hair loss due to excessive shedding as a result of an abrupt shift from anagen to telogen hair growth phase due to a shock in the system- such as illness or hormonal or dietary change), Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp), Trichorrhexis nodosa (weak brittle hair as a result of hormonal or dietary imbalances) and anagen effluvium (hair loss due to infection or autoimmune disease). Telogen effluvium is the most common cause of hair loss which causes shedding of 30% to 70% more than the normal 100 and 150 hairs a day.

Male pattern baldness often has a genetic component, with a parent or grandparent with the condition increases the risk of balding. Certain genes can cause high levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which can shrink hair follicles and disrupt the Anagen growth phase of hair growth. Damaged follicles can often not be repaired, resulting in permanent baldness.

What are the treatments for hair loss?

Some hair loss, such as hair loss caused by illness or dietary deficiency, can be corrected with an improved diet (more iron, B12, vitamin C and E and K) and restoration of health. Hair loss caused by autoimmune disorders (when the immune system is hypersensitive and attacks hair follicles as if they were disease-causing microorganisms) can be treated with steroids and immunotherapy.

Hair loss as a result of being under or overweight can be treated with weight loss or gain to restore healthy body fat percentage levels required to make hormones like Testosterone (needed in men for body hair growth). Too much body fat (when overweight or obese), causes Oestrogen Dominance (reducing Testosterone) and too little (as in bodybuilders with high muscle mass and low body fat percentage or anorexia) causes Testosterone deficiency. Stress reduction techniques can also treat hair loss as stress, and increased stress hormone Cortisol reduces Testosterone production.

DHT blocking medications can also be used to stop the progression of hair loss, strengthen existing hair, and stimulate hair growth. Current treatments, such as Minoxidil and Finasteride, are most often used. Minoxidil stimulates hair growth by increasing the growth phase cycle, shortening the resting phase, and increasing the blood flow to the hair follicle. Finasteride is an oral, prescription-only drug that inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. However, both these treatments come with side effects (as DHT has holistic roles all over the body), affecting mental health, fertility, libido and much more. They also can have a low success rate, working short term and not preventing irreversible hair loss.

What is a hair transplant?

A hair transplant is a treatment, a cosmetic surgery procedure, to replace damaged hair follicles with new ones. With, like anybody tissue transplant, risks of rejection of new tissue rates high and with costs around £30000 (it is not currently available on the NHS), it is an expensive and uncertain procedure. Only half of the procedures result in new hair growth, and often this is not long term.

There are two types of hair cell transplants: Follicular unit transplantation, FUT, (strip method) or Follicular unit extraction, FUE. In FUT, a thin strip of skin with hair attached is removed from the back of a patient’s head and divided into pieces, each containing 5 hairs (hair grafts) and these grafts are sewn onto the scalp. FUE involves shaving the head and removing a hair follicle at a time and inserting these hairs into the scalp one by one.

Both hair transplant methods are complicated and come with extensive recovery roads. Success rates depend on the extent of the damage to the follicles. It also depends on whether genes for high DHT result in the DHT killing off the new cells immediately, the age and health status of the transplant patient, the experience and surgical technique of the surgeon, the extent of the transplant grafts, the medications used to stimulate post-surgery hair growth and whether DHT blockers are still used. Post-transplant recovery procedures are vital for successful outcomes. Success can be anything from 10–80%, depending on these factors. This is why it is such an uncertain procedure. However, advances in clinical science are being made every day, to find effective solutions to the male hair loss problem.

Should I have a hair transplant?

Deciding to have a hair transplant is a complicated personal decision, with much expense (as the procedure can only be undertaken privately) and emotion at risk. It is important that extensive research and care are completed to ensure that the best solution is found and expectations are not disappointed. It is essential that you check independent reviews of your cosmetic surgeon team and their success rates and that you get more than one medical professional's advice, before committing to a procedure. Private surgeons are paid per surgery and so have a vested interest in pushing for surgery. With research and preparation, you have the maximum chance of a positive outcome to repair, restore or replace your hair.

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Neuroscience, mental health and nutrition academic and writer. Life-experimenter, trying to add value with an insatiable appetite for actioning positive change.

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Laurentia (Laura)Campbell

Laurentia (Laura)Campbell

Neuroscience, mental health and nutrition academic and writer. Life-experimenter, trying to add value with an insatiable appetite for actioning positive change.