Your hairline undergoes a few significant alterations in the first month following a hair transplant. First, there will be some oozing, swelling, and bleeding (have your pillow protectors available).
Crusts and scabs will then appear along your hairline as the grafts begin to mend. Once the grafts have begun to grow, they will eventually fall out before you start to see excessive results.
In this article, we have given a complete overview of immediate post-operative care and complications after a hair transplant surgery.
The immediate post-operative care after a hair transplant procedure depends on the extent and complexity of the technique. The following points outline the chief aspects of care:
Scalp soreness and tenderness
The patient may experience discomfort in the scalp area. Pain medication can be prescribed to alleviate aching, excessive tightness, or throbbing sensations.
To reduce the risk of infection, antibiotics are commonly prescribed. It is important to take the whole course as directed by the healthcare provider.
Medications may be given to control swelling and promote healing. These should be taken as prescribed.
Usually, the bandages used during the surgery will be removed one day after the procedure. Follow the instructions provided by your surgeon for proper removal.
Analgesics and sleeping pills
The healthcare provider may provide analgesics (pain relievers) and sleeping pills to manage discomfort and promote restful sleep during the recovery period.
Loose-fitting baseball cap
A loose-fitting baseball cap may be provided to protect the scalp from external factors and provide some comfort. Follow the instructions on when and how to wear it.
Return for a hair wash
It is common to return to the clinic the day after the surgery for a hair wash. It ensures proper cleansing of the scalp and helps remove any residue or dried blood.
Ointments or gels
Ointments or gels are often prescribed and should be applied twice daily to the donor and recipient sites as instructed by the healthcare provider. These promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.
It is normal for the transplanted hair to fall out around 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure. It is part of the natural hair growth cycle and should not cause concern.
New hair growth
Significant hair growth typically occurs around 8 to 12 months after the surgery. The healthcare provider may prescribe medications like minoxidil or finasteride improve hair growth and density.
Gentle hair washing
Within two days following the surgery, it is generally safe to start gently washing your hair as instructed by your surgeon. Use a mild shampoo and avoid any harsh scrubbing or rubbing.
If stitches were used during the procedure, your doctor will remove them within a week to 10 days after the surgery. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions for proper and timely removal.
Recovery timeline table (day by day)
The recovery time following a hair transplant procedure can vary depending on the type of surgery performed. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) typically offers faster recovery times compared to other methods. Here is a timeline that outlines the general recovery process:
Within 2 to 5 days
Any bandages used during the surgery can usually be removed, but it is important not to touch or disturb the grafts. This period is crucial for the initial healing of the transplanted hair follicles.
You should be able to gently wash your hair by hand, following the instructions provided by your surgeon. It is crucial to be gentle during this process to avoid dislodging the grafts.
After 10 to 14 days
Non-dissolvable stitches, if used, can typically be removed by your surgeon. This step marks the completion of the primary healing phase.
After a few weeks
It is common for the transplanted hair to fall out, which is known as shock loss. It is a normal part of the process, and it should not be a cause for concern. The hair follicles will go into a resting phase before regrowing new hair.
After 6 months
New hair growth usually begins, and you will notice small hair follicles emerging from the transplanted area. It is an exciting phase as it signifies the regrowth process.
After 12 to 18 months
The full results of the hair transplant should become apparent. By this time, the transplanted hair should have grown significantly, providing a fuller and more natural appearance.
It is important to note that every individual’s healing process may vary, and these timelines serve as general guidelines.
Additionally, it is common for the transplanted hair to initially look the same as the existing hair for about a month. The best results from a hair transplant are typically visible around eight to 12 months after the procedure.
In some cases, patients may require a surgical “touch-up” procedure to refine the results and achieve a more natural-looking hairline. This touch-up procedure often involves the blending and filling-in of the hairline using mini-grafts, micro-grafts, or slit grafts.
It is advisable to discuss this option with your surgeon once the initial healing and growth process has taken place.
What to do and what to avoid
After a hair transplant, it is foremost to follow certain dos and don’ts for optimal healing and successful results. Firstly, rest as much as possible for the first two days and avoid engaging in vigorous exercise, heavy lifting, and bending over at the neck or waist for at least one week.
These activities can increase blood flow to the scalp and potentially disrupt the healing process. Additionally, your physician will advise you to avoid sexual activity for at least ten days after the surgery to prevent any strain on the scalp.
During the initial ten days, refrain from rubbing the recipient’s area with a towel. Instead, gently wash the area and pat it dry to avoid any unnecessary friction or irritation.
When sleeping, try to maintain a slightly elevated position at a 30-degree angle by using an extra pillow behind the head. You can wear a clean hat, as long as it does not fit snugly or come into contact with the grafted area.
When shampooing, use the flat of your fingers to gently lather with a generous portion of shampoo, and afterward, use a soft towel and a blow dryer on a low setting to dry your hair.
It is crucial to avoid scratching or rubbing the scalp and instead opt for warm compresses, as they aid in preventing crust formation and encouraging crust dissolution.
Furthermore, refrain from shampooing your hair for the first two days, and if using compresses, lightly salinated water is suitable.
Lastly, individuals involved in dirty or physically strenuous labor should not work for 7 to 10 days postoperatively, and you must avoid exposing the head to direct sunlight for the initial two weeks after the hair transplant.
Signs of complications
Complications after hair transplant surgery are possible, although the procedure is generally considered safe and low risk. It is prime to understand that no medical approach is entirely without potential risks.
Complications can arise from various factors, including surgical techniques, inadequate counseling, improper scalp examination, hidden medical history, and allergic reactions.
One common complication is pain, which is typically reported over the donor area in Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) procedures.
Pain medications may be necessary to manage discomfort during the recovery period. Post-operative edema, or swelling, is another potential complication.
Swelling may appear on the third day after the surgery, starting over the forehead and gradually spreading to the upper and lower eyelids and cheeks.
Patients should avoid sleeping on one side or in a prone position to minimize edema. If there is edema accompanied by pain and redness over the donor and recipient areas, immediate action should be taken.
Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, can develop early after the procedure. Symptoms include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure. Prompt medical attention is required if anaphylaxis is suspected.
Itching is a common complaint following a hair transplant. It is often caused by drying and crusting of the scalp. Gentle head washing from the third day after surgery and topical aloe vera can help effectively control itching.
Hiccups, although unusual, can occur due to irritation of the phrenic nerve during strip harvesting. This complication typically resolves on its own.
Postoperative effluvium, also known as shock loss or effluvium, can occur around 3 to 4 weeks after the transplant. It is characterized by the sudden loss of transplanted hair due to a temporary disruption of blood supply during the transplantation process. It is usually a temporary phenomenon.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles and can occur as a response to insult or trauma to the follicles.
Physical trauma or chemical irritation can trigger folliculitis. Scarring is a consideration when choosing between FUE and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) procedures.
After a hair transplant, minor bleeding is common and typically subsides within a few hours. In rare cases, excessive bleeding can occur, requiring medical attention to control and prevent complications
Infections are rare after a hair transplant but can occur if proper post-operative care is not followed.
FUE leaves tiny micro scars that typically disappear within a few weeks and are easily hidden. FUT, on the other hand, results in a linear mark along the donor area.
Infections are a potential risk, even with the best facilities and skilled doctors.
While choosing a reputable surgeon can minimize the chances of infection, follow postoperative care instructions, and take any prescribed antibiotics to reduce the risk.
Necrosis, the death of tissue, can occur in the donor site due to deep punching during extraction or in the recipient site due to the creation of slits. Immediate medical attention is necessary if necrosis is suspected.