How Turkey makes headlines

With excellent care at competitive prices, the country has become the world’s top spot for hair transplant surgery.

We can all think of many attractive and powerful people from the worlds of business, politics, sport and art who don’t have a full head of hair – Ben Bernanke, Andre Agassi, Michael Jordan, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham to name but a few. However, everyone sees themselves differently, and hair loss remains an issue that especially many younger men cannot endure. Thankfully, modern surgical technologies allow balding people to regain hair volume through implants by undergoing just a short procedure. Turkey’s medical tourism industry tapped into this transplant trend early after it recognised its high potential. The field grew in line with the entire medical tourism industry, which the government has been boosting over the past years through subsidies and promotions. This has seen Turkey become one of the most visited health tourism destinations worldwide, owing to its affordable medical packages, its geographical location that makes it attractive to both European and Middle Eastern patients, its highly qualified medical staff and the expertise of its doctors, as well as the country’s appeal as a holiday destination.

Market leader

Turkey tops the world’s medical tourism destinations in terms of the number of hair transplant operations carried out annually, amid rapidly rising demand from Arab citizens from Gulf countries, as well as from the UK, Germany, Italy, and Netherlands and Russia, while recently US citizens and Canadians are also increasingly approaching Turkish clinics for treatment. According to data from the Turkish Health Ministry, around 200 hair transplant procedures are conducted every day, which represents roughly 14 per cent of all medical visitors to the country a year. The surgical technique used is called Follicular Unit Hair Extraction, a process where hair follicles are extracted from the side or back of a patient’s head – where the hair is normally thicker – before being inserted into a balding spot. One session can last for just a few hours, and normally three to four sessions over a couple of days are necessary for good results. On average, a total of around 4,000 hair follicles are moved into tiny incisions on bald areas. Costs are between $1,700 and $2,000 for the implants, which is about 10 per cent or less than a clinic in Europe or the US would charge for this procedure. Adding to the core costs, there are some additional fees for medication, lotions, gels and shampoos, if required, and tissue regeneration procedures in individual cases.

Care tailored to the patient

According to Dr Koray Erdogan, head of Istanbul-based Asmed Hair Restoration Medical Clinic, one of the most popular hair transplant clinics in the city, treatment starts only after a comprehensive inspection of the hair condition of a patient, followed by a personalized estimate depending on bone structure, density needs and the amount of hair present. ‘The area for the transplant will then be anesthetized,’ Dr Erdogan explains. ‘After the implants are done, there is usually a bit of redness in the transplanted regions that dissipates in the range of two to four weeks.’ He recommends that a patient takes at least two full days off work after the surgery. Pain medication might be necessary, and other medical supplements to support hair regeneration after the procedure could be useful. It takes six to eight months to begin to see a cosmetic difference. ‘Each hair has its own timetable,’ Dr Erdogan says. ‘About 20 percent of the hair grows between the second and fourth months, while about 60 to 70 percent grows between the fifth and eighth months and continues to mature for up to 18 months after surgery.’ In most cases, Dr Erdogan recommends a second session depending on how the patient’s scalp reacts. Normally, this is 12 to 14 months after the first transplant. Most clinics in Turkey readily offer packages that include a native-speaking advisor, special meals on surgery days, as well as transport and accommodation in Turkey if required. Many Arab visitors take this opportunity and spend four or five days in Istanbul with their families while undergoing a daily transplant session.