Preparing for Surgery

Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking and avoiding certain vitamins and medications. By following these instructions, you will help ensure that your surgery goes smoothly. If you smoke, it's especially important to stop at least a week or two before surgery; smoking inhibits blood flow to the skin and can interfere with healing.

Preliminary blood tests will be taken. You should wash your hair the evening before or the morning of the session. Don't bother to get your hair cut before your session. Surgeons say the donor sites are easier to conceal just after surgery if the surrounding hair is moderately long.

You should arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery (rarely is a hospital stay required). Plan to take it easy for a couple of days and arrange for help if you think you'll need it.

What can I expect after hair replacement surgery?

You may experience some pain or discomfort, but doctors say this will be mild and will respond to pain medication. Most surgeons will ask that you refrain from wearing a wig or hairpiece for at least two weeks after surgery.

What's tougher than that, hair transplant veterans say, is being patient. Patience is necessary since it will take some time for you to see the full results of your surgery. Due to the manipulation involved, the hairs in the larger grafts usually are shed. Regrowth typically begins in two to six months. Hairs in smaller grafts often continue to grow immediately after surgery. They will grow as if they were still in their original, non-balding location.

You'll also need to be realistic -- you can't really expect a "full head" of hair. Your surgery has simply redistributed the hair that remains on your scalp to the best cosmetic advantage. Occasionally, a few grafts may produce a reduced number of hairs, but almost all will produce hair.

It takes several weeks for the grafts to become firmly anchored, so be very careful with your hair grooming. Gentle shampooing may be done daily, if necessary, beginning three days after the procedure. A very mild, non-medicated shampoo should be used for the first few weeks.

How soon you get back to your normal schedule depends on the length, complexity and type of surgery you've had. You may feel well enough to go back to work and resume normal, light activity after several days.

How much does this surgery cost?

Cost can vary from $4,000 for a lesser degree of hair loss to over $20,000 for more extensive hair loss. The cost depends on the amount of surgery required -- this means that flap, scalp reduction and tissue expansion procedures will cost more. (Some surgeons claim that the cost of hair replacement surgery is hardly more than the cost, maintenance and replacement of a good hairpiece.)

You may need a surgical touch-up procedure to create more natural-looking results after your incisions have healed. Sometimes, this involves blending, a filling-in of the hairline using a combination of mini-grafts, micro-grafts or slit grafts. Or, if you've had a flap procedure, a small bump called a "dog ear" may remain visible on the scalp. Your doctor can surgically remove this after complete healing has occurred. Generally, it's best to anticipate that you will need a touch-up procedure. Your surgeon can usually predict how extensive your follow-up surgery is likely to be -- and how much it will cost.

Usually, your medical insurance will not cover these procedures. Check with your insurance company regarding reimbursement. Many surgeons will set up payment plans, and there are even companies that specialize in loans for hair replacement surgery!

When you consider your expenses, don't forget to factor in your travel expenses if you have to go out of town to see your doctor.