The dark side of hair transplant surgery- how can you stay safe?

Posted by: sumit jayaswal Comments: 0

Hair transplantation is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgery in India. It is a wonderful procedure that has the potential to transform lives. Young men suffering from hair loss suffer from poor self-esteem, at a time of their life when they are looking to establish themselves and make their mark. They are held back through no fault of their own, in the form of jibes, loss of career opportunities and rejection in marriage.

Hair transplant has the power to give these men their confidence back. When done correctly it is safe, effective with long lasting results.

But recently there have been several developments which have tarnished this field. You might have seen a flood of advertisements promising ‘100 percent guarantee’ ‘unlimited grafts’ ‘lowest price’ etc. You might have even read reports of patients dying during this surgery. Let us look why this has happened, and how you can have a successful hair transplant experience

What is the basic problem?

Hair transplant is a surgery done under local anaesthesia, where grafts are taken from the back of the head and implanted in the front of the head. IT IS A DIFFICULT SURGERY TO PERFORM WELL AND GIVE GOOD RESULTS. But the mere act of removing and putting hair isn’t too difficult to perform. Therefore, there has been an influx of untrained individuals performing this surgery. This ranges from doctors who aren’t trained, to non-allopathic practitioners to even technicians who do not have a medical degree!!

Why is this a bad thing?

This is appalling for 2 reasons

  • As mentioned before, getting a good result involves more than just removing and putting hair. It must be done systematically and scientifically. Otherwise you do not get a good result, or you get a very poor result that is botched.
  • Though this surgery is not a major surgery, IT IS STILL A SURGERY. And it must be treated as such. Individuals need to be screened before surgery. Precautions must be taken during surgery. And emergency protocols need to be in place for untoward incidents. Untrained individuals will have lapses in these areas, and your safety can be compromised!

Why is this happening?

There has been a growth in untrained individuals performing this procedure for certain reasons

  1. There is a lack of institutional regulation.
  2. The results of hair transplant are evident only 6-9 months after surgery. So, a patient might not realize his result it botched until much alter
  3. With social media and hyperbole, it is often hard to recognize the credentials of a doctor. Social media can make even an amateur look like an expert.
  4. Many technicians use ‘ghost surgeons’ who exist only on paper but do not take part in the procedure

How can I be safe?

There are a few steps you can take to be safe:

  1. Always check your doctor’s credentials. Look for a qualified plastic surgeon affiliated with the IAAPS (Indian association of aesthetic plastic surgeons)
  2. Check if your doctor is experienced in hair transplant. Ask for his/her results
  3. Ensure that the doctor you meet will be performing the surgery himself

What are the red flags I should look for?

  1. If the clinic does not allow you to meet the doctor performing your surgery
  2. If the clinic uses phrases like ‘100 percent guarantee’. Nothing is 100 percent in medicine. Look for a doctor who tells you the truth
  3. If the clinic promises ‘unlimited grafts for a fixed price’. There is no such thing as unlimited grafts. Cost cutting leads to compromise on quality or safety
  4. If the clinic is in a hurry to perform your surgery without proper preoperative workup. Every patient must be evaluated to ensure that he is a good candidate for surgery.

With these simple steps you can make sure you have a good hair transplant experience. Remember that safety cannot be compromised to make a quick buck. Always do your research carefully before choosing your doctor and do not be taken in by social media hype.

Dr. Aniketh Venkataram

Plastic surgeon, The Venkat Centre for Skin ENT Plastic Surgery