Donor strip harvesting is a minor surgical procedure used to remove a thin strip of hair from the back of the scalp so that follicles may be transplanted into areas where hair is thinning or gone. At Chicago Hair Institute, we specialize in donor strip harvesting to restore the fullness of the hairline using the patient's own hair. When considering strip harvesting, patients often have questions about the healing process.
Here, we discuss what to expect during recovery and the donor strip harvesting healing stages. If you have further questions, our Chicago, IL hair restoration surgeons Dr. Raymond J. Konior and Dr. Sahar Nadimi are available to help.
Early Healing Stage
The initial stage of healing, called the early healing phase, lasts for about two weeks following surgery. Recovery and healing begins as soon as the surgery is completed. Patients may experience some pain and swelling in the first few days after surgery.
Pain may be managed with medication as prescribed by a doctor. Ointment may also be given to the patient to apply to the donor site for the first week along with a spray for the hair grafts. Applying ice to the forehead can help provide some relief and reduce swelling. Patients should also sleep upright for several days and prevent applying pressure to the surgical site to further help reduce swelling.
Scabs typically form around the grafts and donor site in the early stages of healing. It is important to leave these scabs alone as picking at the scabs can cause hair grafts to fail and lead to infection. This also means that the hair cannot be washed for several days following surgery as this can damage the grafts and irritate the donor site.
After about a week, swelling should subside. A post-op appointment will be made to check the hair grafts and the donor site to ensure healing is progressing properly. If the grafts and donor site look appropriate, shampooing may resume.
Within one to two weeks after surgery, scabs should be gone or nearly so. Some hairs may shed as a part of the healing process, however, new hair will grow as the transplanted follicles heal.
Intermediate Healing Stage
The intermediate phase starts once sutures or staples at the donor site are removed; this stage lasts for about two to three months after treatment. During the intermediate phase, the scar tissue produced from strip harvesting may stretch until it reaches maturity several months after surgery. Care should be taken during the intermediate healing phase to limit neck flexion or any activity that may pull on the incision and cause it to stretch. Limiting stretching at the incision site can help prevent the residual scar from widening.
Also around two to three months after treatment, transplanted hair will begin to grow and any hair from the transplanted follicles that may have fallen out during the earlier healing stage should grow back.
Late Healing Stage
The final, or late, healing stage begins around two to three months after surgery and may last as long as a year. The scar left by donor strip harvesting should begin to fade as the tissues strengthen. This also means that the scar should not widen any further at this point.
Transplanted hair will continue to grow and noticeable changes in density should be apparent. Some patients may see changes in hair texture as well. Full results should be visible within six to 12 months after surgery.
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