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Hair Transplant Risks: Everything You Need To Know
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on May 12, 2024

A hair transplant can restore thick, healthy hair growth across your scalp, giving you a confidence boost and a more youthful appearance. However, like all surgery, it comes with some level of risk. 

Hair transplantation has a low complication rate compared to other types of aesthetic surgery [1], and research suggests adverse events occur in just 4.7% of people who receive a hair transplant [2].  

However, serious complications are possible, and you need to be fully informed of the risks to decide whether this procedure is right for you. In this article, we’ll explore:

  • What a hair transplant is 
  • Hair transplant risks and side effects
  • How to reduce the risks of hair restoration surgery
Table of Contents

What is a hair transplant?

A hair transplant involves transferring healthy hair follicles from one part of the scalp to an area of hair thinning or balding. When performed by an experienced surgeon, hair transplant success rates tend to be very high. For example, the Wimpole Clinic’s success rate is between 97% and 100%. 

Hair transplantation is often used to treat conditions including:

Male pattern baldness affects self-confidence

Hair loss can affect your confidence, self-esteem and quality of life. Research suggests that balding men are viewed as less desirable in a personal, physical and social sense [8]. They may experience a better quality of life if their hair loss is treated effectively [8].

Hair transplants are permanent, providing natural-looking hair growth that lasts a lifetime. A hair transplant can increase hair density and coverage in areas affected by hair loss, making you look younger and significantly improving your appearance. 

Recovery from a hair transplant tends to be minimal and usually uncomplicated, with most people able to return to their social life and work within a few days. However, you may need more downtime after a hair transplant into scar tissue. Grafts into scar tissue often have lower survival rates [5], so giving yourself extra healing time can help you achieve the best outcomes. 

Types of hair transplant

There are two main types of hair transplant: follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). Here, we’ll explain the difference between them. 

Follicular unit transplantation

FUT (the strip method) involves surgically removing a strip of tissue from an area of the scalp with plenty of healthy hair follicles. This is usually the back or sides of the head. 

The strip is then dissected into individual follicular units [9] (naturally occurring groups of 1-4 hairs [10]) to be transplanted. These are inserted individually into the balding area to create a natural-looking hair transplant that mimics healthy growth. 

Follicular unit extraction hair transplant

Follicular unit extraction

FUE involves harvesting individual follicular units directly from a scalp donor area. This leaves tiny, circular scars that are less noticeable than the strip scar left by FUT, and recovery tends to be less painful [11] However, it is generally more time-consuming [11].

The follicular units are then transplanted to the donor area of the scalp in the same way as in FUT. This process can be performed manually by a surgeon or by a robotic system [12].

The difference between FUT and FUE hair transplant

Hair transplant risks and side effects

Both FUE and FUT hair transplants have risks during and after surgery. They also have side effects, which are normal parts of the healing process. Here, we’ll explore these risks and side effects in more detail. 

Doctor discusses hair transplant side effects with patient

Side effects

If you experience these symptoms after a hair transplant, you may worry that something has gone wrong. However, they are normal and to be expected as part of the hair transplant recovery timeline. Common side effects include:

Hair transplant risks

All surgery comes with some risk, and a hair transplant is no different. Your surgeon should discuss these risks before agreeing to the procedure. Here are some of the possible complications of hair transplantation: 

  • Excessive bleeding — While mild bleeding is to be expected during and after surgery, there is a small risk of severe bleeding. [13] It is more likely to occur during a FUT transplant due to the wider cut created in this procedure [13].
  • InfectionHair transplant infections are rare but possible. Serious infections occur in less than 1% of people who receive a hair transplant and are usually associated with poor hygiene [14]. If you have an infection, you’ll likely experience fever, swelling, pus, pain, or spreading redness [15]. in the affected area several days post-surgery.
Scalp scarring after FUT hair transplant

Scalp scarring after FUT hair transplant

Image source:

  • Significant scarring — The images above show unacceptably large scars following FUT hair transplant. While a thin, subtle scar is to be expected with this type of hair transplant, a scar this large may be due to inadequate assessment of the donor area by the surgeon or intrinsic properties of the patient’s skin [13]. Younger patients have a higher risk of a wide scar than elderly patients [13]. 
  • Allergic reaction — Drugs used during a hair transplant, including antibiotics, neuromuscular blocking agents, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and povidone-iodine, carry a risk of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction [13]. This can cause a rash, difficulty breathing, and high blood pressure [13]. In all reputable UK clinics, staff carry EpiPens to treat anaphylaxis and are trained to use them. However, there have been hair transplant deaths outside the UK due to allergic reactions.
  • Nerve damage — Any injury to nerves during strip harvesting or an FUE punch that penetrates too deeply can cause neurological problems [13]. Nerve damage can cause pain, hypersensitivity, and a burning scalp, and a completely severed nerve can cause numbness. Minor nerve damage usually resolves within 6-8 weeks, but more severe neurological problems require medical assessment [13]. 
Donor area hair loss after hair transplant

Donor area hair loss after hair transplant

Image source:

  • Donor area hair loss—Donor hair loss is rare compared to the common shock loss of hair that can occur in the recipient area [13]. Significant accidental vascular damage, smoking, diabetes, and excessive tension on the stitches increase the risk of this type of hair loss [13]. Hair regrowth can be accelerated with Minoxidil after this type of hair loss [13].
  • Wound nonhealing — Wound dehiscence (the opening of a surgical incision) can occur after a hair transplant, but it is not common [13]. There is also the risk of skin necrosis (tissue death) during the FUE process if the surgeon over harvests hair follicles or if a poor-quality, large-sized punch is used at a high speed [13].

How to reduce hair transplant risks

The process of reducing risks begins long before surgery. Effective pre-operative assessment and care can make all the difference, so opt for a surgeon who puts you at ease from your first appointment. Of course, careful attention during surgery and well-planned post-operative care are equally important. 

Choose an experienced surgeon at a high-quality clinic

There’s a current trend of heading to countries such as Turkey for cut-rate hair restoration. However, you need to consider whether the risks of a hair transplant in Turkey are worth it, considering the country has a notoriously poor safety record for cosmetic surgery [16].

During surgery, a skilled surgeon will transplant hair follicles in a natural-looking pattern, maintain a sterile environment, and select the right level of anaesthesia to keep you comfortable throughout the procedure. Failure to do any of these correctly could result in unnatural-looking hair growth, hair transplant regrets, discomfort during the procedure, or an increased risk of infection. 

Experienced UK hair transplant surgeon

Choose a reputable hair transplant clinic in the UK for peace of mind and a significantly reduced risk of serious side effects. Our clinic locations are easy to reach and offer highly experienced surgeons with success rates close to 100%. 

Prepare well before the procedure

When travelling to Turkey for cosmetic surgery, you often meet your surgeon for the first time immediately before the procedure [16]. Unfortunately, this does not allow for proper screening and assessment, raising red flags for potential risks at Turkish clinics

A hair transplant is not the best option for everyone. A good clinic will provide you with all the necessary information without any pressure to book surgery. Instead, you will be assessed individually to see if you are a good candidate for a hair transplant

You will often have an initial appointment with a trichologist, an expert in hair loss who can perform diagnostic trichology tests and recommend the best treatment plan for you. These tests may include blood tests for hair loss and a hair pull test

Trichologist performs diagnostic tests for hair loss

These hair doctors take a comprehensive account of your symptoms and medical history. They help you understand the potential risks and benefits of a hair transplant and can also answer any questions during your hair loss consultation

At Wimpole Clinic, your first hair transplant consultation and diagnosis are offered for free. You will also have the opportunity to speak to the surgical team and learn more about the procedure and your surgeon’s experience. 

Follow post-operative instructions

It’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully after surgery. This may include advice on caring for your scalp, washing your hair after a hair transplant, taking medications to manage soreness or prevent infection, and avoiding activities such as smoking that may impact hair transplant results. 

You should also have regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon to monitor your recovery and address any concerns or issues. These appointments allow your surgeon to make sure everything is healing as it should. 

Patient and surgeon at UK hair transplant clinic

Selecting a low-risk hair transplant clinic

With an experienced surgeon, you can get a hair transplant without anyone knowing and achieve natural-looking results. If you’re interested in hair restoration surgery but are concerned about side effects, consider Wimpole Clinic.

As the UK’s leading hair transplant clinic with over 20,000 successful procedures, you’ll be in safe hands with some of the best hair transplant surgeons in the UK. To see what our highly skilled surgeons can do, check out our hair transplant before and after gallery.

Hair Transplant Risks: Everything You Need To Know, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on May 12, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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