Can Your Body Reject A Hair Transplant?
Non-specific hair loss is a significant cosmetic concern for many people worldwide. Consequently, its treatment is for decades the subject of numerous scientific studies.
So far, there has been little progress in re-growing lost hair. However, aesthetic medicine offers a highly-effective solution – hair transplants.
Most potential patients are aware of how hair transplants work. They also know the cost of a top-quality hair transplant procedure is considerable. No wonder their common concern is the success rate, and one of the frequently asked questions is – Can the body reject a hair transplant?
This article has the answer.
In modern medicine, the word "transplant" usually means the transfer of an organ from a donor patient to the recipient. These are often vital organ transplants, like kidney, heart, or liver transplants.
In such cases, the genetic makeup between the donor and the recipient needs to be compatible to avoid organ rejection by the recipient’s immune system.
However, not all transplants work like that. There are also autologous transplants - The transfers of different tissues, such as fat, skin, or hair follicles, from one location to another in the same patient. Therefore, the histocompatibility of these tissues is 100%, and there is no chance of rejection.
All modern hair transplants work in this way.
The doctors harvest healthy hair follicles from one location on the scalp and implant them in another. The body (immune system) never rejects these transplants, but that does not mean they always work.
For various reasons, hair transplants can still fail. We’ll explain why.
Why do some hair transplants fail?
It is easy to understand that terminology does not mean much to patients. Whether the hair transplant is rejected or failed is all the same for them when they do not get the expected result.
Still, it is essential to differentiate these things and explain why and how some hair transplants fail.
The success of a hair transplant procedure depends on many factors. Some are more important than others. These are the top five causes of hair transplant failure:
1. Hair Transplant Team'S Incompetence
Dermatology specialists or aesthetic surgeons and their teams should perform hair transplant surgeries. Their education course allows for enough time to gather professional experience and expertise about skin and hair.
Additional training in hair transplantation techniques is also necessary.
Unfortunately, dermatologists are often not involved at all. Some clinics use inexperienced physicians or technicians without a thorough understanding of the scalp anatomy.
Such an approach can lead to mistakes and lower the treatment effectiveness.
Experienced dermatologists are also able to tailor the treatment for each person specifically.
By personalizing the procedure and following the patient's overall health and cosmetic needs, they avoid unnecessary risks and minimize the chance of hair transplant failure.
2. Outdated Method or Technology
The hair transplant surgery method is crucial for the success of the procedure. Two popular techniques are Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).
FUE has several advanced variants which allow the surgeon to minimize friction during the procedure. These include Direct Hair Implantation (DHI), sapphire FUE, and robotic transplants.
Other tools can maximize the chances for optimal graft growth and survival. Bio-enhanced hair restoration is a quality example.
It includes the use of bio-based products and techniques that aid surgical treatment of hair loss, such as:
· Growth factors
· Extracellular matrix products
· Tissue-holding solutions
· Adenosine triphosphate, and so on.
3. Inadequate Post-Procedure Care
Patients can put their new hair at risk if they do not follow the post-op care guidelines.
Certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking and alcohol drinking, are especially hazardous.
Too much sun exposure, an unhealthy diet, and strenuous exercise in the days following the procedure are also not good.
Hydration is crucial, and so is following all the post-procedure care guidelines provided by the doctor.
If scabbing is present around new hair, it's not a good idea to scratch it or try washing it off because there is a risk of damaging the grafts.
4. Patient Unsuitable for Hair Transplantation
Not everyone is fit for hair transplant surgery.
That is why it is necessary to observe each patient's medical history and run all the tests, to correctly assess their general condition, genetics, and so on.
The doctor also needs to adequately diagnose hair loss, categorize it, and recognize all potential indicators for the failure of hair transplant surgery.
All of this helps to determine whether or not a person is a suitable candidate for hair transplant surgery.
5. Lichen Planopilaris
Lichen planopilaris, or LPP, is a type of hair loss that causes scar tissue to form in place of the hair follicle.
Generally, it is a rare reason for hair loss in both women and men. However, it is a significantly more common cause of hair transplantation failure.
The first symptoms of lichen planopilaris include redness, swelling, and pain around hair follicles. These are all signs of inflammation that ultimately destroy the hair follicle causing permanent hair loss.
The exact cause of lichen planopilaris remains unknown. However, the symptoms and progression of the disease indicate possible autoimmune origins.
There are some oral and topical treatments for LPP, but the treatment outcomes are unpredictable and vary from patient to patient.
How to fix the problem?
If a graft fails, it is impossible to bring it back to life (promote new hair growth from a dead hair follicle). However, there are some things you can do to try and save the existing hair.
When the newly transplanted hair does not grow well or begins to fall off, it is essential to act quickly and try to fix the problem before it goes too far. Three treatments may help boost your hair's health and maximize graft survival chances. These are:
· Oral finasteride,
· Topical minoxidil, and
· Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections
If these do not produce satisfying results, the only option is another hair transplant procedure. The potential issue here is that fully removed hair follicles at the donor site will also not form again. So, there are fewer DHT-resistant hairs to transplant.
The Bottom Line
Hair transplants are autologous.
The transplanted hair follicles originate from the recipient, so the body does not reject them. Most hair transplant procedures are successful, but there are also cases where the “new hair” is lost.
That can happen for various reasons. Patients need to know about this possibility so they can make a well-informed decision.
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· Knudsen RG. The donor area. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2004;12(2):233-240. doi:10.1016/j.fsc.2003.12.003
· Jiménez-Acosta F, Ponce-Rodríguez I. Follicular Unit Extraction for Hair Transplantation: An Update. Actualización del método Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) del trasplante de pelo. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2017;108(6):532-537. doi:10.1016/j.ad.2017.02.015
· Avram MR, Finney R, Rogers N. Hair Transplantation Controversies. Dermatol Surg. 2017;43 Suppl 2:S158-S162. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000001316