Hair transplant complications are rare. FUE and FUT are very safe procedures when performed by a qualified surgeon in a sterile environment. But the risks ramp up at unclean clinics with unqualified technicians. In extremely rare cases, there have been reports of hair transplant patient deaths.
In this article, we’ll reveal the number of deaths related to hair transplant procedures, and whether this is a risk patients should be concerned about when opting for hair restoration surgery.
Can a hair transplant be fatal?
Any type of surgery, no matter how minor, carries some risk of fatality. This includes hair transplants. Even minimally invasive procedures like FUE and FUT can lead to serious infection or severe allergic reaction, both of which can cause death.
Fortunately, this is extremely rare. There have been no reported deaths in the UK as a result of hair transplants. That’s why travelling to the UK for a hair transplant may be a good option for many potential patients living outside the UK. So how often do hair transplant patient deaths occur?
What is the hair transplant death rate?
The hair transplant death rate is extremely low. In the UK, the mortality rate is virtually 0%. There are no case reports of death due to hair transplant complications, though at least four deaths have been reported in the media since 2016 [1-5]. None of these reported deaths occurred in the UK.
By comparison, more than 2 million hair transplant procedures have been performed across the same time period by ISHRS members alone [6-8]. The number performed by unlicensed practitioners is unknown.
If you’re considering a hair transplant, you may be worried about the risk of death when you’re in the chair. Rest assured that there’s virtually no risk if you select a reputable clinic with a good surgeon.
Risk factors for hair transplant death
While it’s still extremely rare for patients to die during or following a hair transplant, there are certain risk factors that make it more likely. These include:
- Travelling abroad for a hair transplant
- Choosing a clinic that doesn’t meet safety standards
- Using an unqualified surgeon.
Of the four reported deaths since 2016, three occurred in India and one occurred in Turkey. Hair transplant costs in Turkey and India are much lower than in other countries. But while there are some good clinics in these countries, it’s also easier to evade health and safety laws. That means there are more unlicensed clinics and surgeons in operation.
How did these hair transplant deaths happen?
In 2016, it was reported that a student had died the day after his hair transplant was performed by two unqualified doctors in Chennai, India . While both practitioners were doctors, neither was qualified to perform hair transplant surgery. The clinic itself was reportedly only licensed to perform hair cutting and styling.
In 2019, another Indian man died following a severe allergic reaction sustained during the surgery. While it’s not clear what exactly caused his anaphylaxis, the patient is said to have asked for 9,000 hair grafts in a single session . This is almost twice as many as a 5,000 graft hair transplant, which should only be carried out in limited circumstances. The patient was treated at a hospital, where he later passed away. All hair transplant clinics should have on-site treatment for anaphylaxis.
An Italian patient who travelled to Turkey for a hair transplant died during the procedure in 2021 . The doctors allegedly told his wife that the man had a heart attack before the operation. But suspicious circumstances surrounding his death ultimately led to the doctor’s arrest. The cause of death remains unclear.
In December 2022, a 30-year-old Indian man experienced multiple organ failure and died following a botched hair transplant. He’s said to have contracted sepsis following a hair transplant infection, leading to his death several months after the procedure .
How to avoid hair transplant complications
The best way to avoid hair transplant safety issues (and hair transplant regrets) is to do your research beforehand. If possible, choose a hair transplant clinic in the UK. That way, if there are any issues when you’ve left the surgery, it’s easy to get aftercare and advice — as well as rapid medical attention — at short notice.
Too-good-to-be-true marketing gimmicks are a giveaway of a cut-rate clinic. Try to avoid special offers or promises of “guaranteed” hair growth and “scarless” results. Neither of these are certain, even for the most expensive hair transplant procedures — so it’s unlikely that a cheap clinic can provide them.
Seek clinics that have glowing hair transplant reviews from real patients. This shows they have a strong track record of proven results.
Cost is a good indicator of quality. You don’t need to pay over the odds — hair transplant prices can be much more reasonable than you might think. Take a look at our 2023 hair transplant cost analysis to see how much you should pay for a low-risk FUT or FUE procedure, and 10 red flags to look out for when choosing your clinic.
How to tackle hair transplant complications
The reality is that hair transplant patients are extremely unlikely to die from surgery, even if they experience complications. You’re more likely to have a failed hair transplant, which can be disheartening, but not life-threatening.
If you’re worried about the safety of a hair transplant, take a look at our expert advice on what to do if your hair transplant goes wrong, or book a consultation today to speak with a hair loss specialist who can answer your questions about what hair restoration treatments are right for you. Check our list of questions you really want to ask before a hair transplant for more information about what to ask your hair surgeon at a consultation.
- Complications in Hair Transplantation
- Hair transplant gone fatal: Chennai medical student dies after botched hair transplant surgery
- Businessman, 43, dies after undergoing hair transplant in India and ‘suffering allergic reaction’
- Italian man, 28, mysteriously dies of a ‘heart attack’ during hair transplant operation in Turkey
- Man dies after botched hair transplant causes head to swell as organs fail
- ISHRS Practice Census 2017
- ISHRS Practice Census 2020
- ISHRS Practice Census 2022
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