We hear it plenty of times: any surgery carries risks. As patients, we can feel unconcerned about that, can’t we? After all, we live in Australia where the standards of care are some of the best in the world.
Australia has excellent structures of oversight and protocols in place. So surely, the hospitals and clinics where surgery (including hair transplant surgery) is carried out, and the surgeons performing them meet the highest standard and have every mandated qualification. Well, yes and no.
Unscrupulous surgeons do practice in Australia, although in numbers lower than you might find overseas where less stringent rules are in place. However, in recent years, particularly in the field of cosmetic surgery, some worrying incidents have prompted the state government of Victoria to issue new regulations for cosmetic surgery.
Some possible complications arising from hair transplant surgery may include infection, leading to septicaemia. This is possible, albeit rare. Along with Lignocaine/Lidocaine toxicity from the anaesthetic injected to numb the back and front of the scalp during hair transplant surgery. Lignocaine/Lidocaine toxicity is considered a complication, although it may also be listed as an allergic reaction. Lignocaine/Lidocaine toxicity can also cause facial tingling, restlessness, vertigo, tinnitus, slurred speech, and tonic-clonic seizures.
Some complications occur because of normal risks associated with the use of anaesthetic (as with Lignocaine/Lidocaine toxicity). With the use of anaesthetic in all types of surgery, from appendectomy, knee reconstruction, to hair transplant, your surgeon should always make you aware of these risks before you undergo a procedure.
Other complications may occur as a result of a non-compliant clinic where health care protocols are not properly executed or upheld.
Other complications can include noticeable scarring in the recipient and donor areas, or over depleting the donor area, by extracting too many follicles and creating a ‘moth-eaten’ appearance. The most rare and dangerous complication is necrosis of the scalp. This can occur when an excessive number of recipient follicles are implanted within a given area. The scalp becomes de-vascularised because of dense splitting of the recipient skin creating large wound areas as a consequence.
There are ways to mitigate some surgery risks. In fact, that is why protocols and regulations are often updated by health authorities, but there is no way to completely eliminate risks and all patients should be made aware of this by their treating surgeon. Some of the risks can be mitigated by ensuring doctors are fully qualified and well-trained, that facilities/clinics are accredited to perform this specific surgery and has up-to-date practises.
These latest health regulations and standards for cosmetic surgeries (mentioned above) rolled out by the Victorian Government encompass clinical care (from pre-admission to discharge and post-operative care), infection control, clinical deterioration, governance (credentials and patient safety, patient experience), workforce (staff credentials/competencies and ongoing training), and health services permit. Paras Clinic (of which Paras Hair Transplant is a part) is fully accredited with Vic Health, effectively having been modified to more closely resemble a private hospital in its protocols and practices.
Hair transplant surgery is an area where bigger is not always better. Remember: just because people have large procedures and get away without adverse health effects, does not mean it is the safest way to go about it. If a large quantity of hair grafts is required to fill in the areas of sparse hair on the scalp, doing it all at once may increase the risk of complication, success of transplant, and rate of healing. Surgeons who choose to overextend themselves and their patients by performing large procedures at best risk the quality of the transplant and at worst jeopardise the health of their patients.
Some patients insist on a procedure with as many grafts as possible. When considering the risks associated with large/long hair transplant procedures, we always recommend caution and encourage patients to opt for a series of smaller hair transplant procedures, rather than one extensive one. A more contained transplant may mean a lower volume of anaesthetic is required, there is less trauma to the scalp, improved recovery time, and less time “in the chair”. FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) is typically a very time-consuming procedure.
Patients wishing to undergo a hair transplant are wise to consider carefully the risk of complications as well as all the rewards that come with a healthy head of new hair growth.