Fears of possible infection after a hair transplant surgery are quite common. Almost every surgery has risks associated with it. A surgical site infection (SSI) is the infection that occurs in that area of the body where the surgery takes place. It develops as a result of an incision. Normally, our skin acts as a barrier against pathogens; however, incisions make way for them to gain entry into the body.
These are caused by endogenous and exogenous microorganisms (outside and inside the body). Still, SSIs do not occur that commonly. Their incidence rate is 1% to 3%. As surgical incisions are made in both FUT and FUE hair transplants, they do carry a risk of developing an infection. However, this shouldn’t fill you with any kind of dread. There are many reasons for hair transplant infection.
Fortunately, it has many preventable causes. The key to safe recovery is that you follow the post-op guidelines provided to you by the clinic. Bacteria are found almost everywhere. There’s no escaping them. They always pose the risk of infection after any surgery. But you can avoid them through proper wound care. In general, a hair transplant is a safe surgery. If the surgeon is qualified and experienced, your surgery is bound to be a success.
How Common Is Hair Transplant Infection?
Incisions provide an entry point for the bacteria on the skin and those outside of the body. It’s not just with surgery. Open wounds have a risk of developing an infection. Tiny cuts and scrapes mean broken skin, which puts it at risk of infection.
The extraction and implantation of follicles entail opening tiny channels in the scalp. This might make it seem like the infection is a common occurrence in hair transplant surgery. However, its possibility is very minuscule, only 1-3%. Those who do develop it, though, need to take extra care as it can impact the final results of the surgery. An infection doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to save your hair transplant surgery. There is treatment available, and you can still have a full head of hair.
According to a study, the likelihood of potentially serious complications that can arise from surgical hair restoration is relatively uncommon. However, the surgery should be performed and planned well. Another research, where 65 patients had FUT, 7 underwent FUE, and one had a body hair transplant found that just 1.37% experienced the complication of excessive bleeding and infection either in the donor or recipient area.
According to the Hair Transplant Forum International, serious infection occurs in less than 1% of cases and that too because of:
- Poor hygiene
- Excess crust formation
- Pre-existing medical risk factors
Other factors increase the likelihood of developing an infection; for instance, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, diseases, medications, old age, and lifestyle (smoking and alcohol). The patients can take care of some of these things. However, if the immune system is weak, the risk of an infection increases.
What Are the Signs of Infection After Hair Transplant?
Usually, after a hair transplant surgery, patients experience bleeding, swelling, and itching, which is quite common. Therefore, an infection may develop right under your nose without your knowing about it. However, signs of infection may also include:
- Burning sensation
If things aren’t getting better after a week, you should definitely get in touch with your clinic. Keep in mind that hair transplant infection can develop in the recipient area, donor area or both. A delay in treatment can cause permanent damage to the hair transplant grafts or the donor area.
How Can You Prevent Hair Transplant Infection?
Although a hair transplant infection is rare, make sure to take a look at the following things to get an idea of how to avoid its possibility:
Keep Your Scalp Clean
You have to follow the post-operative instructions provided to your by your surgeon, especially the washing instructions by using the lotion and shampoo given to you. Other than that, good personal hygiene is also important. Keeping the area clean will only help you.
You will also be prescribed antibiotics for at least four days after the hair transplant surgery and a dose of antibiotics will be given during the surgery as well. This ensures further protection.
Do Not Touch the Donor and Recipient Areas
As your scalp will have tiny wounds all over soon after the surgery, you should avoid putting your hand there at all costs. Usually, our hands are full of dirt and bacteria. Touching your scalp will get the gunk there. Whenever you do have to touch, make sure that your hands are squeaky clean and sterilized.
As mentioned above, itching is a side-effect of hair transplant surgery. If you do feel itchy, try to avoid scratching your head. It can dislodge the grafts and become a cause of hair transplant donor area infection or that of the recipient area.
You should also not pick or remove any scabs. The lotion provided will make the skin soft while allowing the scabs to wash away. You do not have to try to remove them on your own. This can not only cause bleeding but also slow down the healing process.
Attend All the Follow-Up Appointments
This is important because, through follow-up appointments, your surgeon will examine if a hair transplant infection is developing in the scalp. Therefore, make sure that you do not miss them. You will also be asked to send photos of your scalp regularly through the recovery period. This will help your surgeon keep a lookout for any signs of infection that you may be developing.
Avoid Smoking and Drinking
You’ll be required to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking any recreational drugs before the surgery takes place. However, even afterwards, you should avoid these as they can slow down your healing process. All these things can increase the risk of infections.
Avoid Dusty Places
In a hair transplant surgery, a patient can return to work right after the procedure takes place. However, it can vary depending on the kind of work you do and your health. If there’s a possibility of exposure to dirt and bacteria during your work, then avoid going to the workplace for two weeks.
Similarly, do not perform daily tasks that have you get in contact with dirt for two weeks. If you do experience any pain, redness, or swelling in the area of the procedure, contact your doctor immediately.
Do Not Do Any Exercise
Patients are advised to return to the gym only after a month has passed. You should avoid any exercise which strains the body and makes you sweat. Sweating increases the risk of a scalp infection. This also means that you have to avoid going under the sun or performing any sexual activities.
Do Not Go Swimming
You can go to the pool a month after your hair transplant surgery. Before that, the chlorinated water of the pool can harm the grafted follicles. Public beaches are full of foreign bacteria, which can also become a source of infection. Therefore, make sure to stay away from them. If you’re confused about going to someplace, make sure to consult your doctor before.
Choose the Right Clinic
You can take care of some causes of hair transplant infection on your own by properly following aftercare instructions and taking precautions. However, that’s not where it ends. Clean hospital facilities are very important to ensuring an infection-free surgery. Make sure that you check out the surgery room of the hospital that you end up choosing. That is one way to avoid a botched hair transplant infection.
Several of Longevita’s plastic surgeons hold ISAPS certifications, and the hospitals are JCI accredited. They are fully equipped with the latest infrastructure to ensure that the surgery is performed in a clean and safe environment.
Unsanitary conditions, which includes dirty instruments, lack of proper personal protective equipment, or unclean surfaces, all increase the risk of a hair transplant infection in the patient. Many people complain of infected hair follicles from a botched hair transplant.
Therefore, choosing the right clinic is of utmost importance. You shouldn’t compromise your health by buying ridiculously cheap hair transplant packages.
What Happens in the Event of An Hair Transplant Infection?
Scalp infections do pose the risk of damaging your hair transplant surgery results. It might get so bad that corrective surgery is required. Scarring and decreased rate of hair growth are other consequences of hair transplant infection. If you do notice anything, do not just dismiss it. You can save the results of your hair transplant and successfully grow your hair through the timely intervention of a professional doctor.
We hope this guide was helpful for you to understand all about hair transplant infections. It is a postoperative complication that can occur. However, the chances of it developing are quite rare. Not only should you look for a good clinic but also take care of yourself by following the instructions provided. If an infection does develop, make sure to get in touch with your doctor.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Kuddusi Onay