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Hair Loss After Surgery: Why It Happens & How To Stop It
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on February 14, 2024

Hair loss is a known side effect of certain types of surgery. Weight loss (bariatric) surgery, in particular, is known to lead to increased hair fall during recovery. One study found that 57% of weight loss surgery patients experienced hair loss after surgery [1].

However, it’s not unusual to see more hair shedding after any type of surgery. Here, we’ll explore the reasons why you might see hair loss after surgery, and how you can treat and restore your hair after going under the knife.

Table of Contents

What types of surgery can cause hair loss?

The following types of surgery have been linked with post-surgical hair loss [1-2]:

  • Weight loss/bariatric/gastric bypass surgery.
  • Cardiac surgery (such as coronary artery bypass).
  • Gynaecological surgery (especially when performed in the Trendelenburg position, where the legs are raised higher than the head).
  • Breast surgery (including reconstructive surgery and breast augmentation).
  • Abdominal surgery (such as liver transplantation and gallbladder removal).
  • Hair transplant surgery (this causes temporary short-lived post-transplant shedding which starts to regrow within a couple of weeks).

This list isn’t exhaustive. In fact, it’s possible to see hair loss after any type of surgery, due to the stress involved in undergoing and recovering from an operation.

Some researchers have suggested that longer operations are more likely to result in permanent alopecia [2].

What causes hair loss after surgery?

So why exactly does surgery lead to hair loss? In most cases, the cause boils down to one (or a combination) of the following reasons.

1. Stress

Stress is a leading factor in the development of hair loss after surgery. Extreme stress and trauma (whether physical or emotional) can cause a type of temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium, which can affect up to 70% of your hair at any one time [3].

temporary hair loss after bariatric surgery
Telogen effluvium after bariatric surgery.

Surgery increases the levels of cortisol surging through your body (also known as the primary stress hormone). Cortisol has been shown to disrupt the hair growth cycle, which leads to sudden hair loss [4]. When your cortisol levels return to normal, your hair should start to regrow.

One study found that just 4% of cardiac surgery patients felt no anxiety before their operation [5]. So high stress levels are common among surgical patients and may have a significant impact on postoperative hair loss.

2. Hormones

As well as cortisol, having an operation can impact other hormones in the body. High-stress surgeries have been shown to create greater hormonal changes, making you more vulnerable to hair loss [6].

Women who undergo a surgical hysterectomy or ovary removal may find that the subsequent hormone changes (i.e. a drop in oestrogen) leads to hair changes. Female pattern hair loss and frontal fibrosing alopecia are more common following the menopause, which is why HRT can sometimes help with hair loss.

3. Medication

Some drugs that are used before, during, and after surgery may cause hair loss. For example, chemotherapy is a known hair loss trigger and is often provided alongside cancer removal surgery.

chemotherapy induced hair loss
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss.

See a list of more medications that can cause hair loss for more information.

4. Anaesthesia

Some patients experience hair loss (notably, alopecia areata) after being under general anaesthetic for surgery [2, 7]. Research has found that the longer you’re exposed to the anaesthetic, the more likely you are to develop hair loss.

5. Pressure

Spending a long time on the operating table may also cause hair loss [2]. This is known as pressure alopecia, and it can have several symptoms, including:

  • Swelling or tenderness on the scalp.
  • Ulcers forming on the scalp.
  • Unexplained scarring or non-scarring hair loss within four weeks of surgery.
example of scarring alopecia

Scarring alopecia resulting from extensive scalp pressure.


Why is my hair falling out after a long hospital stay?

Pressure alopecia is often the cause of hair falling out if you’ve been in the hospital for a while. Laying down for long periods can restrict blood flow to the follicles, which may result in hair loss.

Other issues like low oxygen levels and low blood pressure resulting from long hospital stays can also trigger or worsen pressure alopecia [2].

How long does hair loss last after surgery?

Post-surgery hair loss can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. In some cases, it may be permanent. It depends on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing:

Hair loss typeDuration
Alopecia areataA few months to a year (symptoms may recur after this)
Telogen effluviumUp to six months (longer durations have been noted, but chronic cases are rare)
Scarring alopeciaPermanent

How to stop hair loss after surgery

While hair loss after surgery can’t always be stopped immediately, there are things you can do to slow hair shedding and promote fast recovery. Here are four ways to stop hair loss after surgery.

1. Take good care of your hair

Keep your scalp and remaining hair healthy to promote rapid recovery from your hair loss. Eat a healthy diet, wash your hair regularly, and stay away from heat-styling tools like straighteners and curling tongs.

2. Reduce stress levels

Physical and emotional stress are leading causes of hair loss after surgery. To regain hair after stress, you need to take steps to prioritise your mental health. This may include:

  • Resting for as long as you need to recover from surgery.
  • Talking through your worries and experiences with a mental health professional.
  • Asking for support from friends and family where needed.
  • Adding gentle workouts to your post-surgery recovery routine (under supervision of your doctor).

3. Seek advice from a trichologist

Trichologists specialise in scalp and hair health, so speaking to a qualified trichologist can help you create a proactive treatment plan for tackling post-surgery hair loss.

Book a consultation with the Wimpole Clinic’s trichology team to get a diagnosis and treatment plan for your individual hair and scalp needs after any type of surgery.

4. Vitamins for hair loss after surgery

After any surgery, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet to promote recovery and ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to heal.

Certain surgeries (in particular, weight loss surgery) have been linked with long-term nutritional deficiencies [8]. In this case, it’s important to discuss your nutritional needs with your surgical team and seek advice on any supplements you should take.

Vitamins for hair loss don’t work for everyone. They’re much more likely to have an impact if you have a known nutritional deficiency.

Hair loss after weight loss surgery: All you need to know.

Weight loss surgery (also known as bariatric surgery or gastric bypass surgery) is one of the most common operations associated with hair loss [9-10]. It affects 57% of weight loss surgery patients [10].

Hair loss after weight loss surgery happens for several reasons:

  • Eating less or sticking to restricted diets can limit the nutrients reaching your hair.
  • You’re not getting enough protein, which is essential for hair growth and repair.
  • The loss of subcutaneous tissue beneath your skin can make it difficult for the scalp to support hair.


Most people will recover the majority of their hair after a few months, provided you focus on optimising your diet for healthy hair. Eating a protein-rich diet, taking any supplements recommended by your doctor, and living a healthy lifestyle can all help promote hair regrowth after bariatric surgery.

How can I reverse hair loss after surgery?

Reversing hair loss after surgery may need more proactive measures. Here are some of the top ways to regrow hair after an operation:
  1. Be patient — In many cases of post-surgery hair loss, your hair will grow back by itself without intervention. If you’re feeling self-conscious in the meantime, consider restyling your hair to disguise thinning on the crown.
  2. Use Minoxidil Minoxidil is a topical solution that promotes blood flow to the scalp, so more nutrients reach the hair follicles. If it’s suitable, supplement Minoxidil with derma rolling for even better results.
  3. Wash your hair daily — Daily hair washing has been shown to reduce hair loss and will keep your scalp clean and healthy [11].
  4. Massage your scalpScalp massage promotes hair growth through enhanced follicle blood flow, and can also reduce stress levels. Treat yourself to a daily scalp massage to promote regrowth.
  5. Consider a hair transplant — If your hair hasn’t grown back after a year or more, you may be eligible for a hair transplant (though this depends on the cause of your hair loss).
The Wimpole Clinic can help you find a safe, suitable solution to your post-surgical hair loss. In addition, we recommend that you discuss any medical hair regrowth techniques with your medical team before you start using them, so they can assess your suitability and make sure you’re on the right road to recovery.

Hair Loss After Surgery: Why It Happens & How To Stop It, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on February 14, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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