Hair transplantation surgery has come a long way in recent years. Technological developments in how the procedure is performed have allowed it to become safer, more efficient, and more successful.
However, a common question among prospective patients is “how successful are hair transplants?”
While it can be difficult to provide one definitive answer to this — especially as there are different techniques used for the surgery — the estimated survival rates for transplanted hair grafts is around 90-95%. In the majority of cases, this will mean that the hair transplantation will be successful, although full results can take up to 18 months to become visible.
To analyse this in more detail, we’ve created a hair transplant success rate guide. Here, we’ve looked into exactly what a hair transplant is, how success varies across the different techniques used, as well as the various factors which can have an effect on the overall outcome of the treatment.
Hair Transplantation Surgery: A Brief Outline
A hair transplant is a minimally-invasive procedure for men or women who are losing hair. The treatment involves the transplantation of hair follicles from one part of the head, known as the donor area, to the bald or thinning part, known as the recipient area.
There are a few different methods for carrying out a hair transplant. The first — and most commonly used — technique is known as follicular unit extraction (FUE). During FUE, follicular units, or grafts, which contain around 1-4 hairs, are extracted one by one from the donor area. Small incisions known as channels are then created in the recipient area and the follicular units are individually inserted to create natural-looking results.
Other common hair transplant techniques include direct hair implantation (DHI) — which doesn’t require channel creation thanks to the use of a specialist tool known as a Choi Implanter Pen — and follicular unit transplantation (FUT), although the latter method has become less common in recent years. However, it’s worth noting that DHI may not necessarily be an alternative to FUE in many cases. DHI is usually a more suitable option for lowering the hairline rather than increasing overall density. However, this is something that can be discussed with your doctor prior to undergoing treatment.
Hair Transplant Success Rates: Setting Realistic Goals
Thanks to technological advancements, hair transplantation surgery is now considered an effective and successful procedure. However, defining what constitutes a successful hair transplant will be specific to each individual patient, depending on your goals going into the treatment. For some, it may be lowering the hairline, while for others it may be increasing the density around the crown. Therefore, before undergoing surgery it’s important to have detailed discussions with your doctor about what the transplant can realistically achieve. This will help to put the final results into perspective and allow you to accurately judge the outcome of the procedure.
How Successful Are Hair Transplants?
Graft survival rates following a hair transplant are between 90-95%. This essentially means that hair that’s transplanted from the donor area into the recipient area should remain in good condition.
Hair transplant success rates are analysed in accordance with patient satisfaction levels. In fact, a 2016 study surveyed former hair transplant patients who’d undergone FUE using a combination of donor hair from their head, as well as from their body or beard. The study followed-up with these patients around three years after their treatment and recorded an average satisfaction rating of 8.3 out of 10.
When assessing hair transplant success rates it’s important to remember that final results can take some time to show. Following the surgery it’s likely that you’ll experience what’s known as the ‘shedding phase’, a process by which up to 90% of the transplanted hair falls out. This doesn’t mean that the procedure wasn’t successful though. Rather, this is a natural and transient reaction to the surgery and the hair will gradually begin to recover and re-grow in time. It normally takes around 12 months for the final results of a hair transplant to become apparent, although in some cases it may take up to 18 months.
Are There Any Factors Which Can Affect Hair Transplant Success Rates?
While overall hair transplant success rates have been steadily increasing in recent years, there are a few important factors which can have an effect on this. These are important to bear in mind, especially since the details of a hair transplantation surgery are often unique to the individual undergoing treatment. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most important factors in more detail.
1. Type of Hair Transplant Chosen
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few different methods used for hair transplantation surgery. FUE is typically considered the number one technique, thanks to its minimally-invasive nature and the fact that it leaves no visible scarring. It’s also for these reasons that FUE success rates are generally very high. However, FUE is becoming increasingly successful, thanks to innovative developments such as the use of sapphire blades and diamond blades for transplantation surgery.
This doesn’t mean that procedures such as DHI and FUT have low success rates though. DHI has the potential to be more effective than FUE. Since there’s no need for the channel creation process during DHI, hair follicles can be transplanted directly into the recipient area, rather than being left to one side while the channels are being created. This reduces the risk of them being lost or damaged prior to transplantation.
2. Type of Hair
The type, shape, and characteristics of your hair may also have an effect on how successful a hair restoration procedure is. Afro hair transplantations, for example, tend to require a little more time and care in order to achieve equally successful results.
For those with thick, curly hair, it’s likely that greater coverage will be able to be achieved through a smaller number of grafts transplanted from the donor site. This doesn’t mean that those with thin hair can’t have a successful transplant though. Rather, what constitutes a successful procedure differs depending on the type of hair that you have.
This is also true when it comes to female hair transplantation surgery. Eligibility for the treatment is a lot more narrow for women than it is for men and the results can differ too. Changes in results and success rates can be down to the different types of hair loss compared to men, as well as the initial causes behind it. However, female hair transplants are becoming more popular and increasingly successful.
3. Clinic and Doctor Quality
One of the most important factors in ensuring a successful hair transplant is choosing a high-quality doctor who offers the treatment at a fair price. Technological advancements aside, a hair transplantation surgery still needs to be performed by a fully qualified, trained, and experienced professional in order for it to be a success. Opting for a cheap, under-qualified physician will not only reduce the risk of the transplant being a success, but it may also run the risk of damaging existing hair.
Choosing a reputable professional doesn’t only have an effect on the success or failure of a hair restoration procedure. Choosing an experienced doctor will also have an effect on the permanence of your hair transplant, which — if performed correctly — should be long-lasting.
4. Post-Treatment Care
Hair transplant success rates may also be influenced by how closely the post-operative guidelines are followed. There are a few important steps that should be undertaken following treatment which will play a role in the volume and density of hair regrowth. While post-op hair transplant care is relatively straightforward, knowing what to expect can play an important role in helping you to determine which post-operative symptoms are normal and which ones may be cause for concern.
5. Supporting Treatments
The potential success of a hair restoration surgery can — in some cases — be increased by undertaking a supporting treatment alongside a transplant. One of the most popular choices is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. This innovative treatment involves taking a small blood sample and spinning it at a very high speed in a centrifuge This allows the separation of the blood component, platelet, which is extracted. The platelet-rich plasma is then mixed with other growth-stimulating substances and injected back into the patient’s head.
Alongside a hair transplant, this procedure can promote additional hair growth and density. A study carried out in 2016 analysed two groups of hair transplant patients, one of which underwent PRP treatment, while the other only had a standard FUE transplant. The study found that all of the PRP participants saw more than 75% growth after just six months. They were also shown to have more density and better recovery than those who didn’t undergo PRP therapy.
Hair loss medications are also viable options that can prove successful in some cases. Popular options include finasteride — which attempts to slow down hair loss by lowering the amount of testosterone produced — and minoxidil, which helps to stimulate the growth of new hair.
The Future of Hair Transplantation Surgery
Hair transplantation surgery has come a long way since it’s first mention within medical academia back in 1939. New technologies and improvements are continually being developed worldwide to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the procedure.
One of the most exciting prospects that may have the potential to significantly boost hair restoration success rates is the development of stem-cell hair transplants. The use of stem-cell enriched injections are already commonly used alongside a hair transplant, however, standalone stem-cell hair transplants are currently undergoing clinical trials and are estimated to be ready for use within the next few years. Until then though, reliable methods like FUE and DHI still offer great success rates and natural-looking results.