When Less is More: The High Price of Overzealous Hair Transplantation

July 11, 2023

Understanding the Risks of Hair Transplant Surgery

When embarking on the journey of exploring hair transplant options, many individuals find themselves unfamiliar with the intricacies of the procedure, eligibility criteria, recovery process, and potential outcomes. To make a well informed decision, it is crucial for those considering hair transplant surgery to gain a thorough understanding of these aspects. Equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge enables potential recipients to ask pertinent questions during consultations with different providers, demonstrating their comprehension and enabling them to receive clear answers.

Among the crucial aspects that clients should enquire about when researching clinics is the risks associated with hair transplant surgery. One notable risk is the potential for over-harvesting the donor area. Over-harvesting occurs when surgeons inaccurately calculate the number of hair grafts required for a successful hair transplant. This results in the extraction of an excessive number of follicles from the back of the patient's head, leading to unnecessary scarring, uneven hair growth, and an insufficient number of follicles for future procedures. Understanding this risk is of utmost importance, especially when consulting clinics that claim to transplant large numbers of hair grafts.

In certain cases, clinics or surgeons that make such claims do indeed engage in over-harvesting the donor area. This can stem from various factors, including a lack of surgical skill, knowledge, or awareness regarding the risks associated with over-harvesting. It may serve as a tactic to inflate the cost of the transplant while offering a low price per graft. 

Ensuring the avoidance of over-harvesting donor areas

When a hair transplant clinic boasts about the number of grafts they offer, such as 5000 grafts, it's important to understand the specifics. Are these grafts single-haired or double-haired? This distinction is crucial to determine if the donor areas are being over-harvested. How does the clinic ensure accurate assessment? Furthermore, in cases of over-harvesting, has the clinic informed patients about the potential need for SMP (scalp micropigmentation) to address any resulting issues?

Let's illustrate the concept of over-harvesting grafts and follicles using an example:

Consider a donor area measuring 140 square cm, with a typical density of 50 follicles per square cm - giving us a total 7000 follicles - and a typically 100 hairs per square cm (a single follicle can have one, two or three hairs growing from it), giving us a total of 14000 hairs. The general rule is to extract only 50% of the available hair from the donor area. Therefore, we can safely remove half of 14000 hairs, that is we can remove 7000 hairs, which corresponds to 3500 two-haired grafts, for instance. Harvesting more than this amount would be considered over-harvesting.