How Successful Are Hair Transplants?
Everyone has their own definition of success, but in the world of hair transplants, an objective standard of excellence is essential. A successful hair transplant means the patient and physician are satisfied with the results, but there’s more to the story than personal evaluation.
Now that hair transplants are more popular than ever, it’s time we found out what really makes transplanted hair successful.
This means evaluating each aspect of the hair transplant process and setting clear standards regarding aesthetics, recovery, long-term resilience, and the client experience.
Let’s see what it takes for a hair transplant to earn the badge of success, the average rate of client satisfaction for this procedure, and what factors to prioritize when beginning your hair restoration journey.
Criteria for Success in Hair Transplantation
While things like art and food are highly subjective in their value, hair transplantation is more complicated to assess. There is a serious medical aspect to this procedure, as it involves extracting grafts from a donor site and implanting them with precision to ensure the safety and health of the patient.
However, there are also artistic elements to this type of surgery, so creating a list of success factors requires many considerations. Here are four categories of criteria to set the stage.
Mechanics and Efficiency
From a purely mechanical standpoint, the execution of each type of hair transplant is of primary importance.
This encompasses technique, precision, timing, and using the best available implements, among other factors. In FUT (follicular unit transplantation) strip surgery, incisions must be precise and targeted, obtaining only the number of grafts needed for the transplant and nothing more.
With FUE hair transplants (follicular unit extraction), this means maximizing the utility of each graft removed from the donor area, performing the extraction in a constrained period, and implanting each one with limited loss or damage.
This category includes efficiency and mechanical accuracy while limiting the rate of transection (damaged follicles) in a given FUE or FUT procedure. In short, has the surgeon and the technician team achieved the core goals of the surgery as outlined in the original plan?
Most experienced surgeons will state that if they can utilize at least 95 percent of the available grafts, perform the hair loss treatment without exceeding the stated time limit, and avoid technical issues, the surgery is a fundamental success.
For instance, transplanting 3,800 grafts out of 4,000 available units will generally satisfy most surgeons in their efforts to maximize efficiency and limit loss.
Aesthetic and Visual Outcomes
Execution is key to any hair restoration surgery, but cosmetic outcomes are more difficult to assess objectively. Adding to the challenge is that each surgery has unique goals with respect to the placement of hair grafts and the intended appearance following the recovery period.
On top of that, recovery can take anywhere from six months to a year before patients and doctors can accurately gauge the results of a procedure and finalize their assessment. Immediately following surgery, any results will be obscured by bandages, scabbing, stitching, and general swelling in the target areas.
With that in mind, here are some broad criteria that doctors and patients can use to determine the success of surgery from a purely visual perspective:
- Even and symmetrical hairline that appears consistent from all angles
- Natural and organic appearance, not easily recognized as surgery
- Accurate grouping of follicles along the hairline and frontal third
- Proper angle of grafted hair implants to represent a natural appearance
- Well-chosen graft arrangement to make the most of each grouping
These are just some of the aesthetic considerations that must be made in real-time, as surgeons must choose from a limited range of grafts and act quickly to limit transection rate and other issues.
It’s not only the recipient area of the scalp and hairline that must be analyzed. The donor region of the head — typically above the neckline at the back of the head — should be assessed as well. FUT surgeries are known to leave a thin horizontal scar in this area, yet the size and significance of that mark will vary based on surgical skill and technique.
While FUE surgeries are praised for leaving less evidence of intrusion on the donor area, scattered markings may still remain where grafts have been extracted in quick succession. Depending on the surgeon’s approach, these marks may be completely undetectable, or alternatively, could limit the patient’s ability to wear certain hairstyles long term.
Resilience and Permanence
The appearance and authenticity of newly grafted hair are chief concerns when analyzing the outcomes of a transplant. However, surgery can only be deemed successful if it achieves a degree of permanence, ensuring the client many years of resilient and functional hair to enjoy.
While these are trickier metrics to track, they play into the long-term value of a hair transplant and provide the patient with the ability to take back full control of their hair. A 100 percent restored hairline isn’t much use if grafts fail to stay in place and results are undone within months.
The challenge here is that despite surgeons’ best efforts to master the mechanics of transplantation to avoid post-recovery hair loss and thinning hair, many factors are beyond their control. In male patients, the genetic and hormonal forces of androgenetic hair loss may overpower even the best hair transplants and bring them back to square one after several years pass.
This is all part of the risk of hair transplantation, of course. Doctors must set reasonable expectations for patients as they forecast the future following an otherwise successful procedure.
Patient Safety and Satisfaction
Doctors are their own harshest critics, performing dozens of hair transplants yearly. But patient safety and satisfaction must also come into play, independent of how surgeons feel about their achievements.
As always, it’s “safety first.” The Hippocratic oath is central to any medicinal or cosmetic intervention: do no harm. All other objectives aside, doctors must ensure the safety and well-being of their patients when performing a hair transplantation procedure of any kind.
In addition to safety, patients should feel comfortable and free of pain during the procedure. This includes all aspects of interaction at the clinic, from setting appointments and administrative tasks to the comfort of the operating room and more.
Since all patients have unique standards and expectations, it’s impossible to avoid some bias when tracking client satisfaction, especially in cosmetic procedures. However, doctors can use consistent methods and surveys to collect information, find patterns, and improve upon the various aspects of service and surgical methods moving forward.
Hair Transplant Success Rates Over Time
With a solid understanding of what makes a successful hair transplant, what patterns can we identify over time as technology and methods have advanced in the hair restoration field?
Going strictly by mechanics, we find that newer, more precise instruments and techniques allow surgeons to keep transection rates low, utilizing more grafts with fewer losses. This can be attributed to other factors, including the introduction of chemicals that preserve grafts for longer and superior recovery protocols.
In terms of aesthetics, there’s no doubt that hair transplants have improved in only a few decades. Gone are the days of the “hair plug” look that was so heavily criticized in the early days of the procedure. With advancements, grafts are now placed in more natural patterns at proper angles, and evidence of surgical intervention is rarely detectable, even on close inspection.
Transplants also tend to last longer, thanks to closer supervision and ongoing care. Industry leaders like Dr. Jae Pak work with patients to ensure that hair remains in top condition, whether through additional treatments or follow-up procedures.
5 Factors for a Successful Hair Transplant
How can you set yourself up for a successful hair transplant from the start? Here’s a five-point checklist to track.
1. Choose a Top Rated Surgeon
Hair transplant clinics are everywhere now, but only a select few are in the top percentile for quality and consistency. Research heavily to find the best service in your region and price range.
2. Take Consultation Seriously
Consultation is key to success and may require more than one meeting. Clearly outline your goals and expectations, and become well-versed in all the key terminology to collaborate with your surgeon effectively.
3. Prepare for Surgery Properly
Surgery can be demanding and requires preparation, both mentally and physically. Ready yourself in the days and weeks leading up to the day of surgery for a smooth experience.
4. Stick to Recovery Instructions
Recovery is essential to lasting and natural-looking results, so never improvise on these protocols. The closer you follow instructions, the better the outcome will be.
5. Follow Up and Think Long-Term
One procedure or treatment may not be enough to reach your goals. Expand your horizons for what’s possible and work with your team to explore new and improved options. From microchanneling to herbal remedies, there’s a lot to discover.
Make Your Hair Restoration a Certain Success
Hair transplantations are vastly improved and generally successful, from small touch-ups to large megasession surgeries. Keep these points in mind as you gear up for your first procedure and make the most of the resources at your disposal.
Hair Transplant Analysis of 820 Cases | NIH
Patient Satisfaction in Hair Transplant Surgery | Research Gate
Find out if Hair Restoration is right for you.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!