Fearing surgical pain is completely understandable. Invasive surgeries are painful, and anaesthetics help the patients fall asleep during the surgery. They’re unable to feel any pain, and can’t move, which makes the surgery easier for the patient and the surgeon.
And when the surgeries are long and involve a large area, general anaesthesia is the better choice. But that’s not what happens in hair transplants.
In the case of hair transplant surgery, the surgeon will punch holes in your scalp to take hair follicles from the donor area of the scalp and then insert these follicles into the recipient area. It’s true that each patient is unique, and their pain tolerance can vary. Still, if you keep moving during the surgery due to pain and discomfort, the final results will be adversely impacted. So, anaesthesia is needed.
However, general anaesthesia is not advised in case of hair transplant surgery. Under the effects of this type of anaesthesia, the patient is unable to feel anything as he/she is completely unconscious. But there are other reasons why you’re not given this kind of anaesthesia for hair restoration surgeries.
Which Kind of Surgeries Make Use of General Anaesthesia?
General anaesthesia is performed when the surgery is more invasive and long. If someone’s having brain, heart, or knee surgery, they can expect to get general anaesthesia. Cosmetic surgeries frequently make use of local anaesthesia. However, there are some surgeries in which the surgeons use general anaesthesia, such as tummy tuck, eyelid, and facelift, among others.
In surgeries where the patient is going to get general anaesthesia, the anaesthetist makes sure to talk to the patient before the procedure to understand their medical history. This way, they decide which anaesthetic will suit the patient the most.
Medical history, any underlying condition, lifestyle, and any medications that they are on are all discussed. The anesthesiologist puts the patient to sleep before the surgery and then wakes them up after it takes place. Throughout the surgery, the patient remains unconscious and pain-free.
There are different ways in which anaesthesia can be administered to the patient prior to the surgery. The patient might receive an injection or inhale the gas through a mask. The anaesthetics don’t take too long to work.
These chemicals block the conduction of the nerves. This way, your brain won’t detect anything that’s happening to your body. Within a minute or two, you will start losing your consciousness.
Side Effects of General Anaesthesia
The drugs that anesthesiologists use to put patients to sleep are very strong. They can have some side effects. To avoid any pain when the patient wakes up, painkillers are also given. So, once you do wake up, you don’t have to worry about feeling any surgical pain. But there are some other side effects.
For instance, sometimes patients feel confused, suffer from temporary memory loss, or find themselves unable to concentrate on things. It is more common among people of older age. They can also feel dizzy after the surgery. This is why they need someone with them after the surgery so that they don’t end up hurting themselves.
Patients can also feel nauseous as a result of getting general anaesthesia. They can also end up vomiting. Shivering and feeling cold are some other side effects. The patient can also feel sore in the injected area. A sore throat from the breathing tube can also happen.
It is not necessary that all patients experience these side effects. Some patients don’t experience any side effects. However, there are others who can’t help but feel sick. It’s better if you have someone by your side to assist you if you’ve got a big surgery. After a day or two, you will probably start feeling a lot better.
Is General Anaesthesia Safe?
Yes. And it’s very commonly used in many different types of surgeries. There are certain procedures in which longer anaesthesia increases the risk of “perioperative complications and mortality,” as reported in a 2008 study published in BJU International. Patients who have some medical conditions are at a greater risk of experiencing side effects from general anaesthesia, such as those with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc.
Why Is Local Anaesthesia Used In Hair Transplant?
There are a few reasons why a local hair transplant anaesthesia is used. Let’s take a look at them.
It Reduces Surgical Complications
As mentioned before, when the duration of the surgery is longer, the potential risks associated with anaesthesia increase. However, it may depend on the type of the surgery, the health of the patient, their age and genetics, among other things.
Hair transplant surgery can take more than 6 hours. This type of anaesthesia can put the health of the patient at risk.
It’s important that the patient is aware of all the risks that come with general anaesthesia beforehand if that’s what their clinic has recommended. However, keeping everything in view, we do not advise general anaesthesia to our patients who want hair transplant surgery.
You Need to Decide on Your Hairline
Another big reason why we don’t recommend general anaesthesia for hair transplants is that the patient needs to stay awake during the surgery. There are four main stages of the surgery:
- transplantation/implantation of follicles
You will have to turn over during the procedure and lay in different positions for as long as the surgery goes on. You will also need to confirm your hairline design with the surgeon. This is why we cannot put you to sleep. The results of your surgery can be affected if you’re unable to move.
The surgeon will draw the hairline just before making the incisions in the scalp (channel opening for placing the grafts). The reason why the surgeon draws the hairline just before the beginning of the 3rd stage of the surgery is so that the line isn’t wiped off during the extraction part.
During the extraction, you’ll have blood coming out from the puncture wounds, which the surgeon needs to keep wiping in order to see the other hair grafts. The hairline drawn can be removed in this process. Also, in the extraction stage, the patient is lying on his forehead, which can wipe it off.
If you’re sleeping and the surgeon makes the hairline on his/her own, you might not like it when you see it after the surgery. When you’re up and conscious, you’ll check the hairline for yourself and tell us it’s okay to go ahead with it. It makes the patient more satisfied with the results of the surgery. Of course, it won’t be the first time that we will draw it.
You Have Change Positions
You’ll have to lie down on your side, face and then your back during the surgery. As you need to change positions, general anaesthesia is definitely not a good option. We cannot turn the patient around during the surgery either, as it is quite problematic.
Therefore, you need to be awake to do that on your own without damaging the grafts. With hair transplant local anaesthesia, you’ll have greater control over the result of the surgery.
Can You Be Awake During Hair Transplant?
Since you won’t lose consciousness under local anaesthesia, you will be awake during your hair transplant. And you’ll have to stay awake as well because you’ll need to change the position of your scalp depending on the stage of the surgery.
You may be lying on your stomach when grafts are extracted from the back of your head. Some patients also have their grafts extracted while sitting upright. But when grafts are implanted in the front areas of the scalp, you’ll be lying on your back. For all these, you need to be up.
While you might experience some discomfort, staying awake during a hair transplant shouldn’t be painful. Many patients who are awake end up watching TV or listening to music. You can even bring your streaming service with you so you can enjoy the kind of content you like.
Keep in mind that the entire procedure can take 6 to 8 hours, so it can be quite long. But once it’s over, the back of your scalp will be bandaged, and you’ll be discharged. It’s better if you rest, but make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions on how to sleep after a hair transplant.
What Are the Different Anaesthesia Options for Hair Transplant Procedure?
Hair transplant surgery makes use of local anaesthesia, which is very commonly used. This type of anaesthesia is limited to a specific area or part of the body. It is powerful enough to keep that area numb until the end of the procedure. It is a far more suitable option for hair transplants.
We also have other options available for the patient in order to reduce their pain during the surgery, such as a jet injector (needle-free option) and numbing cream. Just let us know about your preference, and we will make the preparations.
We understand that the patients feel scared to have the operation under local anaesthesia. However, you should know that it is not the only option for you. You may have the procedure with sedation, or you can get needle-free anaesthesia as well.
To Make the Long Story Short
We understand how discomforting the idea of pain during surgery is. However, because of the side effects that come with general anaesthesia, it’s only used in those cases where it’s needed. And hair transplant surgery doesn’t need general anaesthesia. In fact, this kind of anaesthesia can affect the final results of the surgery.
The reason why local anaesthesia is better for hair transplants is that it reduces the risks to your health. Other than that, as you need to move during the procedure, we can’t have you unconscious. Moving you around can result in damage to the grafts. In addition, you need to be awake to see the final design of your hairline.
This will help you make any last-minute changes that you desire. It is very important that the patient is aware of the hairline that they will have after the surgery. Through general anaesthesia, that’s not a possibility.
Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan