Complications can occur after any form of surgery, though in hair transplantation they are fewer and less serious than other forms of esthetic surgery. Dr. Elliott believes that you should be aware of the possibilities, but also that you can help minimize your risk by choosing a skilled doctor and being an active participant in your care.
The reality is that in expert hands, complications are very rare, and can be treated. Meticulous attention to detail and skill make a difference. Your choice of the doctor makes a difference.
Infection: The risk of a minor infection is 1:200. Dr. Elliott has never seen a serious infection in any of his patients. Treatment is with antibiotics.
Problem donor scarring: This was more common with older surgical techniques. Today this is rarely seen in skilled surgical hands. The main reasons are over-aggressive donor tissue removal or suturing the scalp too tightly. Skilled and experienced hair surgeons can explain how to avoid this. Treatment is by scar revision or grafting into the scar.
Recipient area scars that are visible: Common in the past, the techniques now exist to avoid this and depend on the skill and experience of the surgeon. Grafts placed too deeply in the scalp may form “pitting”, where the hair exists out of a depressed “pit” in the scalp, rather than from smooth scalp. Dr. Elliott will explain how this is avoided and has techniques to correct this if you have experienced this with procedures done elsewhere.
Donor area numbness above the scar: This is normal for a couple of weeks after the surgery, but if the nerve under the scalp is cut during surgery it will be long-lasting or permanent. This will not interfere with graft growth but can be avoided through specific surgical techniques. Dr. Elliott endured numbness on the back of his head for a year after his first transplant. He then developed specific techniques to preserve these nerves. The risk in his practice is approximately 1 in 500 patients. Leaving the nerve intact also means less pain.
Ingrown hairs: These are like any ingrown hair on the scalp and are essentially a pimple. You may get a few when the grafts start growing at 3 months. They go away just like a pimple and don’t harm the hair.
Unnatural hair direction or growth: This is controlled by the surgeon when the tiny incisions are made and the grafts implanted. Problems are avoided by having the necessary expertise and creative ability. As in anything creative, skills vary.