After a long healing process following a fire or chemical burn, patients with burns on the scalp often feel hopeless with their situation. The burns leave constant reminders of the pain they endured, and the scar tissue on the scalp keeps hair from returning. The bald patches make people feel self-conscious out in public and even in their home. The good news is that hair restoration surgeries can help.
Hair Transplant Procedures That Help Burn Victims
Luci’s story is poignant and goes a long way to proving hair loss doesn’t have to be permanent. At the age of just a few months, Luci was found at a Chinese orphanage with severe burns from fireworks covering her scalp, face, and body. The infant survived and was later adopted by a woman in the United States. Because her skin was so severely scarred, hair restoration surgeons used balloon expanders and hairline lowering techniques to pull Luci’s healthy skin and hair forward. Sixty percent of her scalp now has hair coverage.
In 2010, two doctors from the Netherlands used the FUT method to graft hair from a donor site onto the scalps and faces of four burn victims. Within two years, all four volunteers had hair growth in the treated areas. FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) involves hair transplants of each harvested follicle. A small strip of scalp is removed by the surgeon and then carefully dissected into individual follicles that are transplanted to the area where the burns occurred.
In cases where the scar tissue is thick, scar revision therapies or balloon expanders may be necessary prior to the transplant or hairline lowering procedure. Some burn patients often need weeks of preparation on the scalp before the actual transplants.
Cost of Hair Transplants
Many burn victims cringe at the price of a hair transplant surgery and give up hope of being able to restore their looks due to the expense. The pricing varies greatly because every case is different and hair restoration centers’ overhead costs differ.
Harvard Health Publications puts the price at anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) does not list an average, but it states in 2012 that the estimated 88,300 surgeries brought in $1.9 billion in the United States, so that gives an idea as to how expensive these surgeries can get. Plus, health insurance rarely covers the cost of a transplant, because hair transplant surgeries are considered cosmetic.
Pro Bono Hair Transplant Surgery
For qualifying burn victims, there is hope of getting a hair transplant surgery for free. Operation Restore is a pro bono program run through the ISHRS. A number of hair restoration surgeons donate their services free of charge for selected individuals. Operation Restore covers all expenses, including travel, lodging, and the surgical procedure.
Applications for Operation Restore are accepted from July 1st to December 31st, and then are reviewed by the committee in January and February. A second round of applications are accepted from January to June, and those are reviewed in July and August. Applicants must meet income requirements and consult with a physician prior to submitting the application.
If you have scalp burns and don’t believe hair transplants will work, read the ISHRS case study of man who was severely burned in the 2002 Rhode Island Station Club fire. It is possible to restore your hair. When you’re ready to take the next step, Dr. Sheldon Kabaker is a San Francisco hair restoration surgeon who specializes in hair transplants in burn victims. Schedule a consultation with the former president of the ISHRS by calling 1-800-914-HAIR or (415) 379-9015.