“What can be the possible side effects of a hair transplant if I decide to get it done?”
This is one question that I get asked by most of my patients during a hair transplant consultation. A hair transplant (especially FUE) is widely considered to be one of the safest surgeries. And even though a large majority of patients do not experience any complications, there are certain side effects that are possible as with other surgeries. So in this post, I will explain the most common side effects of hair transplant while focusing primarily on FUE, the commonest method of hair transplant. I will try and be as non-technical as possible. I will broadly divide the side effects into 2 categories
- Occasionally Seen Side Effects
- Very rarely Seen Side Effects
A) COMMON / OCCASIONALLY SEEN SIDE EFFECTS
- Pain – A little bit of pain during the course of giving local anaesthesia is felt during the surgery. Mild pain can also happen on the next day of surgery (FUE) and patients feel comfortable after taking a pain killer for one to two days. The pain with FUT is usually more severe and lasts for around 1-3 weeks.
- Swelling on the forehead and around eyes – This is temporary and can be avoided almost completely by massaging the forehead and by taking the medicines that are prescribed.
- Itching – Typically affects the transplanted area and subsides after a few weeks.
- Crust formation – Mild crusting is seen during healing of the transplanted area. It is removed after 15 days from the day of surgery.
- Temporary numbness – This can happen on the transplanted area for a couple of months and resolves on its own usually.
- Folliculitis/cysts – Folliculitis/cysts can happen on the transplanted as well as the donor area as the hair start growing out of the skin. They usually don’t require any intervention.
- Discolouration – Bruising or discolouration of the skin.
- Shock loss – Few hairs from the donor or transplanted area may shed off temporarily for 2-3 months due to the hair transplant process. It usually resolves on its own in 2-3 months.
B) VERY RARELY SEEN SIDE EFFECTS
- Dizziness/ fainting – especially in patients with fear of needles. It normalises within a few minutes typically.
- Temporary changes in blood pressure – This can happen on the day of hair transplant and does not usually require any treatment and settles down on its own by the end of surgery.
- Allergies to the medicines/ toxicity – This is very rare but the most serious side effect and can be life-threatening if not tackled properly. To avoid this, allergy/ sensitivity tests and strict dose monitoring are done.
- Nausea/ vomiting – again a very uncommon side effect and can be easily managed with some tablets.
- Poor results may be seen in some patients. – They are more common in heavy smokers and people with thin hair in the donor area. Such patients may require more than one session to get desired results.
- Slow growth – It is noticeable in some patients. It is uncommon in our setting as we perform immediate implantation which leads to very less “out of the body time” and hence, healthier grafts. I also combine hair growth therapies with the hair transplant.
- Visible scarring – Some form of scarring of the skin is inevitable but usually it’s not visible. Rarely, elevated scars (keloids/hypertrophic scars) may form. People with a tendency of such type of scars are advised not to go for hair transplant.
- Elevated Hair – Elevated or depressed hair giving the skin a non-uniform appearance.
- Skin necrosis – This implies damage to a certain part of skin due to hair transplant. It typically happens in the midline. It is most commonly seen in diabetics and smokers but can be seen otherwise as well. It can also happen in cases where higher than normally expected density of hair is attempted. Also, it may happen due to injection adrenaline that is used in the surgery. Most of the times the necrosis is superficial and heals on its own with a minor scar without affecting the transplanted area much. I tend to avoid exceeding the recommended densities to avoid this side effect and minimize the use of adrenaline. Also wherever possible I make what are called coronal slits which are shallower and don’t cause much damage to the deeper blood vessels. I also measure the size of your grafts before proceeding with the surgery to prepare accurately sized slits that avoid unnecessary trauma to the skin.
- Bleeding – Slight bleeding can happen in patients taking aspirin. Also, it can happen due to dislodgement of implanted grafts if the patient is not careful. It is usually very minor in FUE and stops on its own.
- Infections – Infections are uncommon considering that most of the clinics use aseptic precautions and start antibiotics prior to starting the surgery. But people with uncontrolled diabetes are at risk so we routinely check blood sugar before proceeding with a hair transplant.
Conclusion of Hair transplant side effects Most of the side effects are uncommon as well as temporary and can be easily avoided by experienced hair transplant surgeons in most of the cases. At our centre, since experienced doctors perform the surgery, the chances of side effects are very less. Also, good pre and postoperative care (eg avoiding smoking, taking medicines, controlling diabetes etc) further help in reducing the chances of side effects.