Type of Surgery

What is a Laser Hair Transplant?

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Last updated: 08/13/2009

In recent years more and more individuals are seeking out laser hair transplantation.  In fact it is beginning to parallel the use of lasers in other cosmetic and surgical procedures. Lasers have been used for many things in the cosmetic field such as facial hair and tattoo removal and correction of acne scarring. This is in addition to extensive use of lasers in surgical procedures like vision correction and fat removal. But how can a laser be used to perform a hair transplant? This article covers the basics on laser hair transplantation as it is practiced today.
The Basic Procedure
The transplant procedure uses a very fine laser to create a hole or slit in the skin of the transplantation area.  The surgeon uses a laser, rather than a scalpel, to cut the hole needed to place the hair graft. The laser is a cleaner and, in trained hands, a more efficient way of making the incision in the transplant’s destination. Laser hair transplant does not involve the use of a laser to harvest the hair, in the graft dissection, or in the placing of the hair graft—it is only used to make the incision in the skin.  This is an important point because many medical sources seem to indicate otherwise. The name, laser hair transplant, is responsible for some of this confusion.
During the laser hair transplant surgery there is some blood loss as the skin of the scalp is being broken.  However one of the main advantages of the laser is that it will coagulate the blood at the site thus minimizing blood flow. In terms of surgical scar formation, this is very helpful. Unfortunately, transplanted hair needs adequate blood flow to be successful. Right now blood loss during a hair transplant is minimal, because blood flow to the area is controlled.  In the future though, laser hair transplants may be performed with less coagulation than is currently occurring to help promote graft survival. 
Does Hair Transplantation Hurt?
You might be wondering if the procedure is painful.  There are several claims on the internet and in other places that state there is no pain—this is misleading.  The laser used to perform the surgery vaporizes the tissue at the graft site.  The pulse of the laser is extremely short so that there is a lower amount of heat and injury to the area.  Still, the laser light energy can be painful.  The surgeon will use a local or topical anesthesia to numb the area prior to the laser hair transplant so that the entire surgical process is painless. Without this anesthesia, the sensation would be similar to that of an actual scalpel.
Does it Work?
In the majority of reported cases, laser hair transplants do work however they can also destroy the integrity of the connective tissue at the transplant site.  If the dermal collagen and elastic fibers are destroyed it makes the restoration less effective and the new hair can even be rejected by the patient’s immune system. 
Laser research is currently being conducted to help fix these problems and for now laser hair transplant can be regarded as an effective method for having healthy hair growth.  It is up to the patient to decide whether the procedure is suitable for them or whether they’d prefer to try something a little less invasive.  It is important to keep in mind that the issues discussed above may not apply to everyone and that the procedure is highly successful, generally speaking. You should discuss specific risks and benefits of laser hair transplant with your plastic surgeon.

Last Updated: 08/13/2009

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