One of the most common questions that RESTORE Hair receives from prospective patients regarding hair transplants is the following: “does a hair transplant hurt”?
The simple answer is no – a modern FUE hair transplant surgery doesn’t typically hurt, although some very mild postoperative discomfort can be expected for roughly 1 to 5 days after the surgery. There is typically no pain during the surgery itself because doctors will apply a localized anesthesia to your scalp prior to the surgery. In fact, a hair transplant surgery is widely considered tolerable enough that the use of general anesthesia is extremely rare, meaning you’ll be awake (though probably foggy) throughout most of the procedure.
In some rare instances patients may begin to feel slight pain (similar to a bee sting) as the procedure progresses past several hours. On those rare occasions, additional anesthesia can be applied very quickly, thus quickly making the process instantaneously more tolerable again.
Because local anesthesia is typically applied very liberally, most patients report feeling absolutely nothing at all. Meanwhile, a few patients may report a sensation that is considered ‘odd’ rather than painful – as if somebody were lightly pressing a ballpoint pen against your scalp.
Prior to Surgery:
On the day of your surgery, the doctor will usually begin by buzzing your hair to the desired length, then inject local anesthesia just below the skin in several locations across the scalp. These injections can produce a very brief amount of pain similar to other shots/injections that you’ve experienced in the past. Normal saline (a solution comprising sodium and water) is also injected into the donor area – which minimizes bleeding during the procedure and maximizes the numbing effect. After the donor site is completely numb, the doctor will begin making the carefully planned surgical incisions. Additionally, special anaesthetic techniques known as ‘blocks’ are utilized to numb the nerves which are responsible for sensation in the scalp. Depending on the preference of the proceduralist, various anaesthetic agents can be utilized for this purpose (e.g. lignocaine and bupivacaine).
Lastly, some doctors will prescribe a mild sedative to their patients to help calm their nerves leading up to the surgery, although this practice and the type of sedatives used varies widely from doctor to doctor.
Hair transplants in the past were characterised by a moderate degree of postoperative pain, particularly with the antiquated FUT “strip” method. However, hair transplants today are virtually painless due to the widespread adoption of the more modern FUE technique. (Note: RESTORE Hair only performs the more modern and less painful FUE method).
However, even those undergoing an FUE surgery can still expect very mild discomfort for 1 to 5 days after the surgery. This pain is considered highly tolerable by most patients and is typically mitigated through the use of prescription pain relievers. Postoperative pain relievers are nearly always prepared in advance for you by the doctor, and are usually placed into your hands when you depart the clinic after the surgery.
Usually the most challenging day for hair transplant pain is the day after the surgery. This is because the surgery itself is characterized by the use of multiple numbing agents, local anesthesia, and occasionally other types of powerful sedatives. Once those drugs and numbing agents leave your system, the pain can occasionally become more noticeable, which typically happens hours later. However, one 2019 study found that post-operative pain was significantly reduced in patients undergoing the FUE method as opposed to the strip method, and that pain usually disappeared as the first postoperative day ended.
In cases where pain persists past that timeline, it should progressively relieve itself within just a few days, with improvement occurring on each subsequent day.
Hair transplants are a relatively safe and a virtually painless procedure. However, like all surgeries, there is a high-degree of variability between individuals and the recovery time and tolerance for pain varies accordingly. However, the vast majority of patients recover quickly with very little self-reported pain, and those who do experience more pain can typically mitigate the effects very easily through prescription medication.