By Dr. Richard Chaffoo
Hair transplant costs are usually quoted by hair transplant surgeons based upon the number of grafts needed to “cover” the area(s) of balding scalp in the frontal region, crown, or area in between (mid-scalp). In addition, most hair transplant clinics quote patients by the cost per graft (ie. 2000, 3000, or more). The costs may vary from $6-$8/graft depending upon the expertise of the surgeon and region of the country. So, total costs for hair transplants can vary from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000.
But, how accurate or even fair is this system? Let’s examine this in more detail.
If a patient visits several hair transplant clinics to choose a hair transplant specialist and obtain a surgical quote then he will quickly discover some interesting and conflicting information. For example, if a patient visits 4 different hair restoration clinics each clinic will likely provide a quote for a different number of grafts needed to treat their hair loss. Why does this happen? First, in simple terms, there is no mathematical formula or software program that can accurately assess the number of grafts needed to correct baldness in the scalp. It is really a guess or estimate. So, the patient will receive 4 different quotes, one from each clinic. If he visits 10 clinics then he will probably get 10 different quotes.
How Many Grafts Will I Need for a Hair Transplant?
Second, all grafts are not created equal. What does this mean? Each hair is derived from a hair follicle. Hair follicles in the scalp are organized into follicular units composed of one or more follicles in each follicular unit. When grafts are harvested from the scalp for transplantation in a follicular unit extraction procedure, they are usually composed of one follicular unit which may contain 1-4 or more follicles each.(1) Grafts containing more follicles will yield more hairs and more density whereas those containing only one hair will appear less dense when transplanted.(2)
In practical terms, it is not possible for the hair transplant surgeon to be able to accurately predict how many hair follicles can be obtained from a patient until the time of hair transplant surgery.
Will My Quoted Price for a Hair Transplant be Accurate?
Third, since the hair transplant surgeon cannot accurately predict the number of grafts a patient truly needs for a hair restoration procedure, quoting the patient on the cost per graft is inaccurate and can be misleading.
The patient might choose a clinic that quotes $6/graft since it seems the cheapest cost, only to discover at the time of surgery he needs more grafts. His initial quote of 1500 grafts for $9000 may end up being closer to 2000 grafts at the time of surgery to cost $12,000. What seemed like a bargain is now out of his budget!
Fourth, how does a patient really know how many grafts were obtained at the time of surgery? Did the surgeon really harvest 2000 grafts or did he harvest a smaller number and split some of those grafts? He could have harvested 1500 grafts and split 500 of them to reach that “magic number”. Did the surgeon harvest follicular units that were mostly composed of single hairs because of the patient’s anatomy? It seems there are more questions than answers when a patient is quoted a price per graft for hair transplantation surgery.
Fair Pricing for Hair Restoration
So, what is a more accurate, honest and transparent system when providing the patient a surgical quote for hair restoration surgery? It certainly is not a price based upon each graft ($6/graft, etc.)! If you really can’t predict how many grafts a patient needs or even gets then what is the answer? First, you have to explain to a prospective patient that the system used by many clinics is unfair as we just discussed. Second, the patient should be provided a quote based upon the area(s) to be transplanted.
A simple method is to consider the areas to be transplanted as “small”, “medium”, or “large”. A small area usually refers to transplanting into one area of the balding scalp like the frontal area or crown. This area may require 1000-1500 grafts. A medium area may require 1500-2000 grafts, while a large area that treats the frontal and mid-scalp may require 2500-3000 grafts. These numbers are simply estimates but allow the surgeon the flexibility of adding as many grafts to an area as possible to create the most density or “coverage”.
The patient is charged a flat rate for each of these 3 scenarios (small, medium, or large). There are no hidden or surprise costs for the patient. The surgeon is free to place as many hair follicles into the transplanted areas as possible to obtain the best aesthetic outcome. The patient gets the most value for his investment by allowing the surgeon the flexibility to add as many grafts as he can to each area being transplanted.
As a triple board-certified plastic surgeon, I decided that hair restoration should be treated like every other plastic surgery procedure. Costs should be based upon the anatomic areas and procedures to be performed.
For example, tip rhinoplasty is an operation performed upon a limited part of the nose and is less expensive than a complete rhinoplasty which is performed on the entire nose. Furthermore, breast augmentation is a less expensive procedure than when combined with a breast lift which involves more surgical steps and dissection. Hair restoration is, simply put, another plastic surgical procedure and not a commodity like a pair of sunglasses! Charging patients by the cost per graft is antiquated and not consistent with the way plastic surgeons think.
In general, hair restoration costs for treating a “small area” may range from $8000 – $10,000. “Medium” sized hair transplant procedures may vary from $12,000 – $15,000. “Large” sized hair restoration cases involving 3000 or more grafts may cost $17,000 – $20,000. Hair transplantation surgery that is revisionary may cost more depending upon the deformities that need to be corrected.
If you’re considering a hair transplant, it’s important to know what to expect. At California Hair MD, we’re committed to giving each patient accurate information so that they understand all the details of their hair transplants and the results that they can look forward to. Schedule a consultation today by calling (800) 373-4773 to make an appointment at our locations in La Jolla, San Diego, Newport Beach, or Beverly Hills.
- Bicknell LM, Kash N, Kavouspour C, Rashid RM. Follicular Unit extraction Hair transplant harvest: a Review of current Recommendations and future Considerations. Dermatology Online Journal. 2014;20(3). doi:https://doi.org/10.5070/D3203021754
- Sharma R, Ranjan A. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Hair Transplant: Curves Ahead. J Maxillofac Oral Surg. 2019;18(4):509-517. doi:10.1007/s12663-019-01245-6