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What to expect
We will do everything possible to ensure your comfort on the day of surgery. You will receive a sedative to relax and then a local anesthetic will be administered to ensure a pain free surgical experience. You may be scheduled for either a strip harvest surgery or follicular unit extraction (FUE) procedure. The course of the day will differ slightly between the two methods of graft harvest. With either method you’ll receive a lunch and in the afternoon while the grafts are implanted you can just rest, channel surf cable TV or watch a movie. The length of the surgery will vary depending on the number of grafts needed, the harvest method utilized and patient variables which may make the process go slowly or more quickly. In general it is best to plan that the surgery will end between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm (some cases may take longer). If you plan on flying out the evening of surgery please plan accordingly. Schedule a personalized consultation with Dr. Harris to find out more about your unique case.
Strip Surgery Graft Harvest
The donor area will be prepared by cutting the hair on the strip to be removed to about ½ inch while rest of the hair is left at its normal length. The sedative and anesthetic will be administered and the donor strip will be removed and the donor area sutured with stitches that will dissolve on their own in 2-3 weeks. The surgical staff will then dissect the grafts from the donor strip and Dr. Harris will create the sites where the grafts are to be implanted. These sites will dictate how the hair will grow, angles, directions, density, and irregularity/naturalness of the frontal hairline. Once all the sites have been made the surgical team will implant the grafts.
FUE Graft Harvest
If you’re having either an ARTAS™ robotic procedure or an FUE procedure over 2000 grafts the area will be prepared by shaving all of the hair in the donor region to a length of 1/16 of an inch (think of “Marine boot camp” length). The hair on the top of the scalp may be left slightly longer. There are occasions where a smaller number of grafts are required and a full shave may not be required. This possibility will be discussed at the time of the consultation.
The sedative and anesthetic will be administered and then Dr. Harris will start the graft extractions using either the ARTAS™ System or the Harris S.A.F.E. System depending on the pre-operative discussions. During this process the patient may be face down on the ARTAS™ chair or procedure table and this is usually followed by turning the head on the ARTAS™ chair or rolling onto the patient’s side to access grafts on the sides of the head. Once the extraction process is complete Dr. Harris will create the sites where the grafts are to be implanted. These sites will dictate how the hair will grow, angles, directions, density, and irregularity/naturalness of the frontal hairline. Once all the sites have been made the surgical team will implant the grafts.
In the case of FUE procedures requiring more than 2000 grafts the procedure may be performed over two consecutive days.
Healing from surgery
When all the grafts have been planted the donor and transplanted areas will be cleaned and the staff will review the postoperative instructions (including washing your hair the day after surgery) and you will be given pain medications and a spray for the grafts. For FUE procedures where the donor area was shaved a dressing will be applied over the donor area. You will then be ready to leave the clinic wearing your baseball cap. Our preference is that you arrange for a ride home since you will have received a sedative.
The transplanted area will have crusting or scabbing and may look pink — like a sunburn — for seven to ten days after the surgery. Patients with skin that is prone to redness may notice a slight pinkness lasting somewhat longer, sometimes in the range of 2-4 weeks. If you had an FUE procedure with a full donor area shave, it will take about 12 -14 days for the donor area to look back to “normal”, like you had a very short haircut. The implanted hairs will grow for two to three weeks then the follicles will go dormant and the transplanted hair will fall out leaving you looking like you did before the surgery.
If you’ve had a strip donor harvest many patients feel like they can return to work the following day, except for the visibility of the scabs in the transplanted area. Patients having this procedure can resume a full fitness and exercise regimen within a week.
After FUE you can resume full activities starting 3 days after the procedure except for swimming and activities that require a helmet, those can be started after 7 days.
The “dormant” period between surgery and new hair growth is typically two to three months. However, it doesn’t all grow at once, and you will notice that each hair has its own timetable. About 20 percent of the hair grows between the second and fourth months, with about 60 to 70 percent growing between the fifth and eighth months. Most patients reach full growth by 10 months.
Dr. Harris is an internationally renowned surgeon, an award-winning inventor and innovator, a pioneer in FUE technology and an advocate for patient care. He answers all patient questions and performs all procedures himself. Learn more about Dr. James Harris or ask the doctor a question about what to expect.