FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: OPERATION RESTORE
What is the ISHRS’s Operation Restore?
Operation Restore is the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery’s pro bono program, designed to match prospective hair restoration patients suffering from hair loss as a result of an accident, trauma or disease with physicians willing to help people who lack the resources to obtain treatment on their own. Patients whose hair loss is a result of heredity or genetics are not candidates for the Operation Restore program. Since its inception in 2004, Operation Restore has provided more than $450,000 worth of free hair restoration surgery and expenses for nearly 50 patients suffering from hair loss due to these circumstances. Today, Operation Restore boasts a membership of 90 ISHRS volunteer physicians worldwide.
Established in 1993, the ISHRS is a non-profit medical society composed of more than 1,000 members worldwide representing nearly 60 countries. A main focus of the ISHRS is providing continuing medical education to physicians and education and factual information to the public about hair loss, including the medical and surgical treatment options.
How do prospective patients apply/get matched with an ISHRS volunteer physician?
Patients suffering from hair loss due to disease or trauma and cannot afford hair restoration surgery are encouraged to apply to the ISHRS’s Operation Restore program. Applications are available through the ISHRS Web site – www.ISHRS.org – and are reviewed by the Pro Bono Committee of the ISHRS. Selected patients are matched with an ISHRS physician volunteer, and every effort is made to match patients with physicians in their geographic area. But in cases where travel is necessary, the program covers these expenses for the patient.
Since in many cases selected Operation Restore patients are matched with a physician they have never met, the ISHRS included a mechanism in the approval process whereby patients are encouraged to ask the matched physician questions and view their before and after photos of other patients. The ISHRS wants patients to be as comfortable with their matches as if they had selected the physicians themselves.
What is the Hair Foundation’s relationship with Operation Restore?
The Hair Foundation is a charitable, 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization committed to providing expert and scientific information for public education and outreach. Founded in 2005, the Hair Foundation aims to provide information to the public and to the consumer about hair health and options for treating and maintaining healthy hair. In June 2008, the Hair Foundation formed a collaborative effort with ISHRS to help raise funds through appropriate corporate donors to support the Operation Restore program.
How common are cases of hair loss due to injury, trauma or a medical condition? Are these forms of hair loss usually permanent?
While heredity is the most common cause of hair loss, cases of hair loss due to injury, trauma or disease are not uncommon and typically occur from such things as burns, dog bites, accidents or following radiation therapy to treat certain types of brain cancer. We find that young children are most susceptible to burns and scalding, as they are in a critical learning process and want to investigate on their own everything around them – not realizing the potential dangers that exist in their environment. Older children and teenagers are most susceptible to injury and trauma of the head – including the scalp – due to accidents involving bikes, skate boards and scooters.
Unfortunately, hair loss that results from injury, trauma or a medical condition is usually permanent – and patients are severely affected both emotionally and physically by their condition. However, hair restoration surgery is an option for most patients, who typically will require several reconstructive surgeries – including hair restoration surgery in his or her lifetime to restore the damaged area. An obstacle these patients face is that hair restoration surgery is generally not covered by health insurance, as it is considered a “cosmetic” procedure.
What are the psychological effects of hair loss, particularly for children and young adults?
Studies show that hereditary hair loss takes a significant psychological toll on patients, resulting in low self-esteem and decreased self-confidence that can affect their overall quality of life. For children and young adults with hair loss due to trauma, accident or disease, the emotional and physical effects can be devastating and lead to a range of problems such as depression and social anxiety. Following their procedures, patients tell physicians time and time again how hair restoration surgery changed their life. Operation Restore gives patients a chance to restore not only their hair, but their self-esteem as well.
How many people are affected by hair loss?
Hair loss affects 50 percent of all men and over 25 percent of women worldwide. In the U.S. alone, for example, approximately 80 million men and women suffer from male or female pattern hair loss. While it is difficult to estimate the number of people affected by hair loss due to trauma or a medical condition, it is safe to say that there are thousands of people suffering in silence – not knowing who to turn to for help and that treatment is even an option for them.
How have hair transplants evolved over the years and why are they the preferred treatment for hair loss?
Recent scientific breakthroughs have made hair restoration an option for almost everyone, including those suffering from hair loss due to trauma or a medical condition. Today’s hair restoration surgery safely and effectively creates natural-looking, permanent results that are virtually undetectable. Gone are the days when visible “plugs” were the treatment of choice. Specially trained physicians now use the latest surgical techniques to restore new hair growth in thin or bald areas with the patient’s own existing scalp hair. Performed by the right physician, surgical hair restoration can consistently produce natural-looking results.
How can an individual or a company become a “Friend of Operation Restore?” How are donations used to help patients?
The ISHRS welcomes the support of individuals and corporations to help fund the Operation Restore program. Anyone interested in making a monetary donation or purchasing Operation Restore apparel should visit the ISHRS Web site at www.ISHRS.org or call the ISHRS headquarters at 1-800-444-2737 or 630-262-5399. All monetary donations for Operation Restore are designated as donor restricted, with all of the net proceeds used to fund Operation Restore activities, and are tax deductible as a charitable donation.
Operation Restore is grateful to its corporate supporters – Starwood and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – for graciously agreeing to be a “Friend of Operation Restore.” By providing complimentary or discounted room accommodations or airfare, their generous support helps defray costs for eligible Operation Restore patients. Operation Restore also greatly appreciates the fundraising efforts by the Hair Foundation, including a donation from extremeV.