Author Bio: Dr. Sanusi Umar MD is the author of this article.
Hair Transplant Deaths: Can You Die From a Hair Restoration Surgery?: Even though it’s a cosmetic procedure, A hair transplant is still a medical procedure that carries real risks. In the scheme of medical procedures, a hair transplant that is performed to standard carries minimal risks relatively. However, these risks can escalate if you choose an unqualified doctor or clinic—including hair transplant deaths. In an attempt to save a quick buck, many hair loss sufferers trek to developing countries for cheaper hair transplant surgeries. In these countries, often many clinics practice illegally. Furthermore, many of the clinics “bait-and-switch” their customers. Typical accounts hold that after they impress the patient with the doctor’s credentials, unlicensed doctor’s assistant are then brought in to perform the surgery instead. This allowance puts the patient at an enormous risk of complications.
Hair transplants are medical procedures that require the highest standard of care and attention. Therefore it’s important to protect yourself from practitioners who fail to treat the process with the patience and detail the surgery calls for. The patient must exercise due diligence and take responsibility for the facility and doctor in whose hands they end up trusting not just their look, but their very life.
How to Prevent Hair Transplant Complications: Hair Transplant Deaths
If you’re traveling abroad for a hair transplant, it is crucial to keep yourself informed of the procedure’s details:
- First of all, check to make sure that the entire staff is certified to execute their respective roles in your procedure with Doctors doing doctors work, and medical assistants doing what falls within the jurisdiction of a medical assistant. Will anyone unlicensed personnel be making incisions or harvesting grafts during the surgery?
- Are all parties involved in the surgery covered by malpractice insurance?
- Next, ask if the operating room is up to standard
- Verify if the certified personnel will monitor you throughout the procedure and if all personnel would be working under the supervision of a person licensed by the state medical board to perform surgery.
- Confirm that the procedure would be attended by personnel that is certified in basic life support – BLS and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
- Find out what type of anesthesia would be used on you
- Find out what medications would be administered during the surgery and verify your allergy / adverse reaction statuses as regards those
- Have they invested in cardiac monitors that should be used during your surgery to monitor vital parameters like blood pressure, pulses, oxygen saturation, etc during the procedure.
Hair Transplant Risks: Red Flags
There are certain telltale signs that should warn the patient of potential dangers in proceeding with a clinic or doctor for a hair transplant procedure:
- Be sure to provide the doctor with a detailed medical history before the procedure. The history should include a thorough summary of all medications and allergies. Patients should consider it a red flag if a clinic does not have a routine protocol in place that captures detailed past medical history including medication use history and allergies.
- Patients should generally avoid clinics that try to get them to undergo surgery after a minimal period of clerkship. A very poor sign would be having a surgery within 24 hours of first contacting a clinic.
- Avoid clinics that do not have a clear post surgery care protocol in place. A hair transplant is half the process, a substantial part of it comes after the surgery.
Hair Transplant Deaths: General Anesthesia vs. Local Anesthesia
General anesthesia ( GA ) is a mixture of medications that will induce a loss of consciousness in a patient prior to surgery. When a patient is under general anesthesia, they will not feel pain. When anesthetized, the brain does not respond to pain signals or reflexes. On the other hand, local anesthesia induces the absence of sensation in a specific part of the body. In local anesthesia, the person is fully awake as the anesthetic is injected in the area where numbness is desired. General anesthesia carries many risks of complications including death. Many causes of death that occur during surgery, happens a direct result of general anesthetic complication rather than the surgery itself. For this reason, GA should be reserved for major surgeries where it is necessary and needed. Hair transplantation is not such a major surgery. It is an esthetic surgery that can be performed completely using local anesthetics only.
Dangers of General Anesthesia in Hair Transplantation Procedures:
General anesthesia is detrimental to hair transplant patients for many reasons:
- First of all, it increases the risk of death. General anesthesia independently carries a higher risk of death than the procedure of hair transplant itself. So by doing a hair transplantation which is an elective procedure, one is introducing an added and avoidable risk of death.
- The quality of the work goes down because the doctor is in a rush to complete the surgery, since there is a limit to the number of hours a person should be under general anesthesia. With the time limitation that GA causes independently, the surgeon has to rush to complete the surgery in the limited time window the GA imposes. When doctors rush a surgery, the entire team feels forced in the operating room to do a lot of things at once. This puts the patient at more risk of personnel error because under such rushed circumstances, supervision might suffer.
There are some countries, like France and Brazil, where general anesthesia for hair transplantation is the norm. So it is important to be aware of your doctor’s anesthetic process before moving forward with the procedure. According to Dr U, the majority of hair transplant deaths (unreported) that he is aware of have happened because of complications of general anesthesia (GA) and not from the procedure itself.
Hair Transplant Death In The News
As has been noted, precaution is everything when it comes to a safe and successful hair transplant procedure. A recent headline demonstrates that any failure to check on a practitioner’s credentials can have fatal consequences. The India Times reported that Santosh Kumar, a final-year medical student in India, died after undergoing a hair transplant at a salon in 2016 (1). According to doctors, an allergic reaction to the anesthetic used during the procedure led to his death. The News Minute later found that the center only had a license for hair cutting and styling and not hair transplants.
Something That Really Happened
In 2019, 43-year-old businessman Shrawan Kumar Chaudhary in India died after a hair transplant procedure that exceeded the safe number of grafts to apply in one sitting. According to Dr Umar, considering all factors including safety and ability to properly monitor all activities and personnel involved in a hair transplant procedure, the number of grafts to be performed in one sitting should not exceed 3,000 grafts in one day. In the instance of Mr Chaudhary, the clinic reports that the patient requested to have 9,000 grafts instead. “Patients often try to pressure doctors to cover large areas in one sitting. According to Dr U, when you succumb to such pressure, it would mean rushing through the procedure, and bringing in an inordinate number of staff in, to all work on the one case at the same time. With myriad of people all working at the same time:
- The supervision of each activity suffers a setback as a result of this/
- There is a multiplier effect of the possible complication risk of each process. For instance many people might be injecting local anesthetic at the same time in different areas of the body leading to excessive dosing. Poor supervision can increase the chance of mistakes by some personnel to be overlooked.
- We do not plan more than 2,500-3,000 grafts in one sitting and make sure it is completed in 6-8 hours. Prolonged time and extended anesthesia can compound problems,” an Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons spokesperson told The India Times.
The Most Common Causes of Death From a Hair Transplant
The most common cause of death in hair transplantation are:
- The use of general anesthesia.
- Reaction to medications
In summary, if you are contemplating a hair transplantation, do your homework and consider the serious nature of the medical procedure you are about to undertake with the full understanding that not just your look, but your own very life is what you are entrusting to the clinic you choose.