Since hair transplant surgery is considered cosmetic surgery, it is extremely rarely covered by insurance and the patient pays out of pocket. Patients are usually very eager to have their baldness cured, so when they finally decide on surgery, it’s important to adhere to the age- old adage of buyer beware when pricing a hair transplant.
Costs can vary greatly even within any particular city as well as around the world. Often the price does not indicate the quality of work. Charges are usually based on a ‘per graft’ fee in the US (where a graft contains from one to four follicular units) but the payment structure varies in europe where most clinics charge by the procedure.
Just as in any other business, beware of offers that sound too good to be true. While it may be tempting to go with the lowest bid, a patient could end up with a lifelong reminder of his mistake. A lower cost may involve an inexperienced team who botches a higher percentage of extractions and implants or makes a mess of the hairline due to a lack of artistry and experience. This may even require further surgery, if the problem is correctable.
Another warning deals with pricing swindles. It’s important to compare apples to apples. A graft (FU) may contain from one to four hairs. Some unscrupulous doctors charge according to hairs rather than grafts making the total seem higher and, consequently, more expensive. Keep in mind those 4000 hairs equals approximately 2000 grafts.
Sometimes it is necessary for a doctor to make single hair grafts by splitting a unit for use in the frontal hairline. However, if a doctor or his team split a four-hair graft into two two-hair grafts just to push the total up and make the fee appear to be a bargain, that’s fraud. This little heist is known as double charging. Yet it is true that it’s impossible to obtain a fully accurate estimate of grafts upfront, and for this reason many clinics in europe charge based on the relative size of the operation (small, medium, large, etc.) Since the accounting process of dissecting grafts varies, your doctor should be willing and able to explain the exact number of cut grafts and how the numbers were computed.
Next, the traditional bait-and-switch can occur. This takes place when a low-ball price estimate, involving perhaps a lower estimation of the number of grafts actually needed, lowers the costs just to make the sale. Then, at some point in the process when the patient is already committed, the price is increased for some reason and it’s too late to back out. In the worst case scenarios, the patient is sold a small procedure when he actually needs a large one—he will then need a second transplant very soon and the overall cost is much higher than if he had completed the full procedure in one session.
While the cost of hair restoration, like all surgeries, can seem high, it’s important to consider the alternatives. For example, a prospective patient should take into consideration the cost of maintaining and replacing a hair system or wig if he or she elects not to have a restorative procedure. In the long run, the hair system can end up costing more over time. Hair restoration procedures typically last forever and unless further procedures are needed for additional balding, the newly covered scalp will be full of hair for the patient’s lifetime (again, because the donor hairs do not suffer the same genetic weaknesses as hairs on top of the head).