Anyone who spends a reasonable amount of time researching hair transplant on the internet will no doubt have come across the term ‘shock loss’. I generally find that most people that consult with me don’t have full clarity on what the term means and the cause of it in the first place.
Shock loss is defined as the temporary loss of healthy existing hairs due to surgical trauma and can occur both in the donor and recipient areas.
Let’s take the recipient area for starters. Multiple small incisions are made into the area, usually with a needle. It is into these ‘sites’ that the grafts are placed in order for them to grow. A lot of thought goes into the making of these recipient sites. The depth of the incision, exit angle, direction and density are all factors that will influence the cosmetic outcome of the procedure. During this process, it is possible to damage existing healthy hairs in this area due to direct trauma. In most cases, the affected hairs will fall out due to the aforementioned trauma but will grow back on the next hair cycle in 3 months’ time. However, if the root or bulb of the hair is damaged during the process, then there is a chance that the hair in question is permanently damaged and will not grow back. At The Knudsen Clinic, we go to great lengths to try and minimize the chance of shock loss occurring. A great deal of time is spent ‘planning’ the design of a patients’ surgical procedure. Each recipient site is carefully created under magnification in order to maximise visual impact and minimise trauma to the surrounding area. Ultra-high density grafting is not usually the solution to every individuals’ hair loss issues and conversely can in many cases be the cause of shock loss to the existing healthy hairs. This leads me on to my next favourite term… ‘future-proofing hair transplant’. I am commonly asked if it is worthwhile transplanting hair into an area that hasn’t undergone balding yet, but may do so in the future. The theory being that by transplanting hair into the area now, it saves a further surgical procedure down the track. My answer is generally ‘No’. First of all, there is no guarantee that the area in question will experience any hair loss at all. Secondly, the chance of causing shock loss by transplanting into an area that already has normal healthy hairs is quite high.
Shock loss can also occur in the donor region as well and exists in both FUT and FUE procedures. In strip surgery, it is possible to see some temporary hair loss around the suture site again due to direct trauma. In FUE procedures, the act of harvesting and ‘excising’ a graft can also cause damage to surrounding grafts that may result in its temporary loss.
Another term that is used commonly and that shouldn’t be confused with shock loss is ‘shedding’. This generally refers to the temporary loss of a grafted follicle into the recipient area. This happens to various degrees in an individual within the first month following a hair transplant. The act of removing a graft from one portion of the scalp and relocating it to another part causes the life cycle of that hair to ‘switch off’ and almost reboot again. This results in the short term shedding of some grafts which will grow back on the next hair cycle within the subsequent 3 months.
The occurrence of shock loss following surgery can understandably be disconcerting to those involved. However this is usually a temporary phenomenon and provided that we understand the causes and have strategies to mitigate that, the affected hair follicles should return in due course.