Hair Transplant Surgery - The Wild West Is Getting Wilder

Spencer Kobren speaks with IAHRS accepted member, Atlanta hair transplant surgeon, Ken Anderson M.D., about the complete lack of oversight in the field of hair transplant surgery and how this effects patients and the field as a whole.

Dr. Ken Anderson: With my patients, I call it the, sometimes I call it the wild west of medicine. What patients don't get is that it's not a ... It's a surgery. Most people understand, "Okay, that's serious and it must be all standardized and by the book." I'll talk about things, like sit down with my patients and talk about the industry and what's going on with it. Sometimes guys ask questions like that and sometimes I'll bring up ... I'm like, "Hair transplant surgery is more or less the polar opposite of a tonsillectomy." Done a bunch of those and a tonsillectomy takes 15 minutes. Hair transplant, all day, sometimes a day and a half, depending on how you do it.

Spencer Kobren: Right.

Dr. Ken Anderson: A tonsillectomy, you're doing it in an operating theater in a hospital. You've got anesthesiologists who don't work for you. You've got circulating nurses who don't work for the surgeon. We've got a lot of independent eyes watching what's going on, as opposed to hair restoration surgery, in my clinic everyone works for me. There's no oversight so I can do what I want. You can cut corners everywhere, everywhere.

We all know about The Tiger Talk, PRPs, and just trying to save money. There's dozens of clinics like that in Atlanta. It's kind of strange, people are shocked to understand that it's not standardized. Hair transplant falls any way you want, really. There's a lot of variables that you could either choose to go big on and make sure you check off that box, like using HypoThermasol, for instance, more expensive storage solutions. You don't have to but it's been proven to give a little bit of a boost there in the survival rate so the guys know it's serious, some of us use it.

It's funny, people don't really get that it's not the same thing everywhere.

Spencer Kobren: Well, here's the thing. The reality is, people ... It has been marketed as a one size fits all procedure. It's been marketed as just a procedure that ... Essentially, it's like everyone does it the same way. It seems to be standardized but they are shocked, like you said, when they find out that it's not standardized. The reality is, the guy's who will be charging $2 a graft in your area or anyplace else, how do you think they're charging $2 a graft? Because they are cutting corners, because they don't give a shit about what's going on and the outcome of your surgery.

I wrote a post on our Facebook group, hair transplant community, and it was essentially saying that you guys are devaluing yourself. Not you, Dr. Anderson, but other guys in the field, by putting out these specials on yourself, by trying to compete with these $3, $4 graft guys by putting out Christmas specials and all the bullshit that I see from really good doctors. Stop doing it.

I actually think, and I know that the market doesn't necessarily cater to this, but I think you guys should be charging for consultations. If I was going to get a hernia repair, the doctor would pay me, my opinion. I like to pay the doctor for that consultation. To me, there's no value in something, and just the way I am and the way that a lot of people should be. If you're not paying for somebody's time there's a good chance they're not giving you the best of their time.

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The International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons is a consumer organization that selectively screens skilled and ethical hair transplant surgeons. The IAHRS does not offer an open membership policy to doctors practicing hair transplatation, and is the only group that recognizes that all surgeons are not equal in their skill and technique. Its elite membership seeks to represent the best in the discipline, the true leaders in the field of surgical hair restoration.