Hair Transplant in Turkey – Pros and Cons
Patients that have thinning hair or balding patches on the scalp often turn to a hair transplant to address the issue of patterned hair loss. While there are hundreds of board-certified hair transplant surgeons across the country providing patients with natural results that last a lifetime, some people decide to travel abroad for a hair transplant. One of the most popular locations for hair transplant surgery is the country of Turkey.
Why Patients Travel to Turkey for a Hair Transplant
A Turkish newspaper named Hurriyet reported that, as recently as 2017 about 60,000 people visited the country of Turkey to have a hair transplant. It was also estimated that anywhere from 150-500 hair transplants are performed in the country each week.
Hair transplants are not the only popular medical procedure in the country. As recently as 2018, a total number of 826,000 people visited Turkey to undergo medical procedures such as cosmetic dentistry, face and body plastic surgery and in vitro fertilization. The number of medical tourism patients visiting the country is expected to grow to 2-million by the year 2023.
Here are some of the reasons hair transplants in Turkey are appealing to some patients:
- Cheap Hair Transplant – Patients travel to Turkey because the cost of a hair transplant is much less than the cost of one in the United States. In Turkey, the cost can be anywhere as low as $1000-$4000 for a FUE hair transplant.
How can they offer affordable hair transplants?
The licensing of hair restoration centers is not as regulated or enforced as the United States. People with no medical training can perform procedures. The government of Turkey has been turning a blind eye to this while continuing to benefit from revenue that comes to the country from patients. The fact that the hair transplant centers use “lay individuals” to perform hair transplants, instead of board-certified doctors, reduces their overhead so they can offer the procedure at a much lower price.
Any businessman can open a hair restoration center by hiring technicians to train others and start performing hair transplants. There is no supervision from health authorities on the licensing or medical backgrounds of the operators.
There are more than 300 clinics that offer hair restoration in Turkey. The controls on clinics have been continuously loosened in the last decade thanks to the Turkish government wanting to increase the amount of income in the country. Even the centers that have doctors on board are run mostly by technicians. One doctor is often at the clinic but the procedures are done by unlicensed personnel. This gives plenty of flexibility to the technician to perform all aspects of the procedures.
- Appealing Packages – To encourage European patients to keep coming to Turkey, these centers offer incentive packages that include not only the surgery but the cost of traveling, tours of the city and a hotel stay.
Advantages of Hair Transplant in Turkey
- Cheap Hair Transplant – A hair transplant is more affordable in Turkey, or other countries like India or Iran, since non-physicians perform surgery on patients
- Visiting Another Country – Turkey is a beautiful country and hair loss patients who go there can enjoy visiting the country if they give themselves a few extra days
- Covered Hotel and Transportation Cost – The process of performing hair restoration there has minimal overhead so the clinics can afford to provide a hotel, transportation or sightseeing tours
Disadvantages of Hair Restoration in Turkey
When looking at the reasons listed above that detail why patients travel to Turkey for a hair transplant, it seems like a pretty good idea at first glance. However, there are some possible risks that anyone interested in traveling abroad for a hair transplant (or any other medical procedure) should be aware of before scheduling a surgery:
- Lack of Qualified Staff – Not all of the hair restoration procedures are performed by board-certified doctors with the proper training and experience to handle any possible complications that might occur during the surgery.
- Outdated Technology – These clinics are usually focused on saving on costs and do not have access to the best hair restoration technology.
- Substandard Procedures – Countries like Turkey are not held to the same medical standards as the United States so patients need to know that the surgical centers are likely not up to the same sanitary regulations as the ones practiced in America.
- No Follow-Ups – If there is some type of hair transplant complication after the patient returns home, it will not be easy to visit the doctor or technicians to examine and address the issue. This means patients will need to spend more money on further procedures to revise the final results.
- No In-Person Consultation – The initial consultation appointment is often done using photographs of the scalp of the patient. There is not always an in-person hair transplant consultation where the patient can be examined by the doctor and ask any questions in a one-on-one setting.
Dangers Involved with the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine
Problems with the unlicensed practice of medicine have been voiced in the last few years by many medical societies. These practices are illegal in the United States and the centers that allow unlicensed individuals to perform surgery could be prosecuted. There is no such system in countries like Turkey.
The ISHRS (International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery) warns of potential serious risks when unlicensed personnel perform hair transplantation surgery. Despite the warnings of medical societies, doctors are seeing more and more complications from hair transplants that were done in other countries. These hair restoration procedures were often performed by unlicensed practitioners or at centers lacking sufficient medical supervision. However, these societies don’t have any authority to intervene or stop these illegal activities.
Here are some of the common dangers involved with the unlicensed practice of medicine:
- General Adverse Effects – There are many problems that we have seen or heard about related to procedures done without proper medical expertise. Some have to do with the overall health of the patient and lack of liability on the part of the operator. Hair transplant surgery is a skin level procedure and very safe. However, we have had reports of extensive skin necrosis, blindness and even death of the patient in countries like Turkey, Iran and India.
- Scalp and Hair Adverse Effects – We see these conditions in patients who went to other countries to save money instead of having their procedure performed by a board-certified experienced surgeon. They often come back with complications that are hard to treat and sometimes even impossible to reverse:
- Improper Placement of Individual Hair Groups – The hairline should normally be restored with single hair follicular units in the front to create a transitional zone and 2s and 3s behind to create the bulk of the hair. Using groups that have more than one hair is important to provide a refined hairline and avoid a hairline that looks pluggy.
- Wrong Angles of Transplanted Hair – Hair angles and the curvature of the hair are important in creating a natural look to the hairline. Not paying attention to this matter makes the transplanted hair detectable to others and is very difficult to revise
- Substandard Harvesting Methods – Bad techniques of harvesting can cost patients a good portion of their permanent hair reserve. Every patient has a certain number of permanents hairs that can be used for hair transplantation. That number is not renewable using current technology and, if a portion of it is wasted during the harvesting and implanting process, we cannot get it back. We use Trivellini Multiphasic System to guarantee the grafts are harvested in their best shape and to eliminate any injury to the grafts. We exclusively use Mohebi Implanter (Inserter) to minimize the risk of damage to the grafts. There might be other methods that allow hair to be transplanted faster but they are not as safe for delicate hair grafts. Using outdated methods of harvesting may leave the donor area with a scarred or depleted pattern that is difficult or impossible to treat
- Overharvesting – We often see overseas clinics push for a maximum number of grafts. However, there is a safe limit for each procedure in terms of the number of grafts that are available to harvest throughout the life of a patient. The desire of patients to get as much cheap hair as possible, along with the greed of the owners of the hair transplant centers, can produce disastrous results.
- Unpleasant Look – Extracting hair and implanting them in the balding areas might not always be the cause of the problem if things go wrong. Some of the biggest problems in the creation of a hairline include an unnatural looking hairline, a hairline that is not appropriate for the sex, race and ethnicity of the patient or a hairline that is not proportional with the other facial components. These complications can be treated but the patient might spend a lot more money trying to correct any issues that should have been planned for at the start of the procedure. In addition, some hair follicles may be lost in the process of revising these conditions.
Getting a Hair Transplant in the United States
Despite the risks involved with getting a hair transplant in Turkey or other countries that allow non-licensed individuals to practice medicine, we see many people continue to do that. These individuals are usually motivated by the significantly lower cost of a hair transplant that they can get in those countries.
Hair transplantation is a very delicate and precise process and it requires a knowledgeable surgeon with a skillful hand and an artistic eye. Doctors need the proper training and experience to provide patients with the optimal results in a healthy and safe medical environment.
Hair transplant techniques have been drastically evolving over the last decade. Parsa Mohebi Hair Restoration has been in the forefront of research and innovation in the field of hair restoration. Our Mohebi Implanter (Inserter) was invented to eliminate damage to the follicles during placement. It has been sought-after by many reputable doctors around the world.
Why do we need to innovate? Because we could never be happy with the status quo and we like to push the envelope in order to have a bigger impact on the results and survival of the grafts. A good hair transplant surgeon should be constantly involved with new techniques invented by others and discussed at international medical conferences. When the procedure is performed by a non-physician, who is not aware of the most advanced techniques in this medical field, the procedure uses outdated techniques and equipment.