If you have typical male pattern baldness and have a good fringe of hair that measures at least 3½” in height, you may be a candidate for a hair restoration by scalp flaps surgery.
A scalp flap is one way to quickly and effectively move a large group of healthy, densely packed hair to an area of thinning or baldness. Up to 10,000 hairs or more can be moved in one flap. In this procedure, a strip of hair-bearing scalp adjacent to a bald area is separated. A small area of about 2 inches at one end is left attached to the scalp to allow continued blood flow in to that piece of skin and hair.
The scalp flaps surgery gives you:
Skin flap surgery is a method of moving a “flap” of skin and underlying tissue from one area of the body to another. This two- or three-stage procedure can totally resurface the balding part of your scalp with your own growing hair in as little as 90 days. Any other method of hair restoration surgery would take a minimum of one year of work and six to twelve surgeries to transfer an equivalent amount of hair.
This surgery is performed to :1) repair a non-traumatic cosmetic defect such as male pattern hair loss, 2) repair a site of traumatic injury to restore its functionality and cosmetic appearance, or 3) repair a skin defect caused by a congenital malformation.
The flaps used in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery are either “pedicle” flaps or “free” flaps:
Pedicle flaps are flaps that are surgically removed from a donor site and transferred to a recipient site with an attached pedicle of tissue that contains the flap’s artery-vein blood supply along with the flap tissue. Transfer of artery-vein blood supply along with the flap improves the survival and health of the transferred tissue. Pedicle flaps are the type most often used for cosmetic hair restoration.
The free flap is called “free” because it is transferred from donor site to recipient site without any attached pedicle. However, it must contain arteries and veins that are reattached to blood vessels at the recipient site by microvascular surgery. Free flaps are often used in reconstructive surgery when local skin is not sufficient to raise a pedicle flap to cover a defect-for example, to cover a substantial area of scarred scalp tissue. In recent years, free flaps have been used for cosmetic hair restoration by skilled and highly trained physician hair restoration specialists.
Scalp flap surgery has an important but limited role in hair restoration. The surgeon who performs the procedure must be a skilled physician hair restoration specialist with specific training and experience in use of skin flaps for hair restoration. In the hands of an appropriately trained and experienced surgeon, scalp flap surgery can be a highly successful approach to hair restoration in carefully selected patients.
Patients with frontal baldness exclusively are good candidates for scalp flap hair restoration, but many physician hair restoration specialists do not regard scalp flap surgery as first-choice treatment for frontal baldness. The choice of scalp flap surgery, hair transplantation, scalp extension or scalp expansion as first-choice treatment for frontal baldness should be weighed carefully in discussions between patient and physician hair restoration specialist
Frontal baldness may be in any degree from “frontal only” to “frontal to mid-scalp”. When scalp flap surgery is the treatment selected, the rotation of one flap or multiple flaps from the hair-bearing donor area of the scalp to the bald area provides instantaneous full hair coverage; narrow gaps between transferred flaps may require some subsequent “touch-up” by hair transplantation or alopecia reduction procedures.
More extensively bald men with vertex (crown of the head) balding may benefit substantially from scalp flap hair restoration with proper preoperative planning, and when the procedure is performed by a skilled, experienced physician hair restoration specialist.
Scalp flap surgery for hair restoration was performed as early as the 1930s but did not become an established technique at that time. In 1969, plastic surgeon Dr. José Juri, Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported development of the scalp flap techniques that are the basis for practically all scalp flap techniques for hair restoration in use today. A master of flap surgery, Dr. Juri uses both pedicle and free flaps as a method of choice for treating baldness of various types and degrees as well as baldness due to various causes.
However, since the 1980s, the majority of physician hair restoration specialists prefer hair transplantation and alopecia reduction as first-line treatments for cosmetic hair restoration because of the success of these methods. Scalp flaps now tend to be reserved to correct traumatic and congenital defects in reconstructive hair restoration.
After scalp flap surgery, you will have prescriptions for antibiotics to prevent infection and pain pills to control discomfort. Many patients do fine with acetaminophen (Tylenol) after surgery and do not require stronger medication.
After the first two preliminary procedures, you will wear a bandage overnight. After the flap is moved in the third stage, you wil have a gauze compression dressing on for a few days to protect the flap, minimize swelling, and absorb drainage. It is normal to see a few drops of blood on the gauze. If you notice more than a few drops, or if the area of blood is increasing, call your doctor right away. The dressing usually is removed after 2 to 3 days, and sutures come out after 7 to 10 days.
After about a week, you will be allowed to gently wash your hair. At this point, most people return to work, if they haven’t already. If desired, follicular unit grafts (grafts of 1 to 4 hairs) can be placed along the flap edge for a more natural appearance 6 weeks after your surgery.
Once the flap is rotated and healed, it will continue to remain just as if it were in its original site. Scalp flap surgery does not stop hair loss, and you will continue to lose hair just as you would have if the flap of hair was not rotated, but usually the effects of scalp flap surgery will last 10 to 20 years or more.
Although you will instantly have hair, this will likely be very noticeable to those that know you because of the dramatic, quick change from thinning or no hair to dense, full hair (unless you normally wear a hairpiece). The scar may be visible along the edge of the flap, and the sharp demarcation between the flap and the hairless area may also contribute to obvious hair replacement. Follicular unit hair transplant (hair grafts) can then be used to camouflage the flap and scar by placing grafts of one or two hairs along the edge of the flap.
Surgeon innovators of microsurgical free flaps for cosmetic hair restoration have presented results showing that use of microsurgical flaps can eliminate the complications of distorted hair pattern and inconsistent hair density. They recommend microsurgical free flaps as a treatment of choice of various types and degrees of baldness. It is important to note that microsurgery is an advanced technique in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery that requires great skill, training and experience. Most physician hair restoration specialists have not sought such training and would not recommend use of microsurgical flaps for cosmetic hair restoration.