It Wasn’t Joe Buck’s Hair Plugs That Paralyzed Him, It Was the Anesthesia

Sportscaster Joe Buck is making headlines today as reports of his “hair plug addiction” are taking the Internet by storm.

As revealed in his upcoming memoir, “Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, And The Things I’m Not Allowed To Say On TV,” Buck recalls having an overwhelming fear of losing his hair, one that led him to undergo his first hair transplant at 24. According to Sports Illustrated (who previewed the book), he then had a vocal chord paralyzed due to complications during his eighth procedure.

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While this is an incredibly scary report, New York hair restoration specialist Carlos K. Wesley, MD, says it is an exceedingly rare occurrence in hair restoration surgery. “It's rare for two reasons. First, hair restoration surgery does not need to be performed under general anesthesia that requires intubation [the placement of a flexible tube into the trachea to sustain an open airway]. Secondly, even if a practice does use general anesthesia, vocal cord paralysis is a rare combination following tracheal intubation.”

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What’s more, Dr. Wesley says he is shocked to hear that this procedure would even be done with intubation, as it should be comfortably performed under local anesthesia with a mild sedative. “While patients are able to rest comfortably during the procedure, the local anesthetic used atop their head leaves them with the sensation of wearing making to ‘wearing an invisible helmet.’ This is the standard of care and what we use in our practice.”

“The complications from intubation that may result in the vocal cord paralysis that Buck experienced may be due to an overinflated balloon that holds the airway tube in place and controls the passage of air in the airway or the balloon not being properly deflated prior to removal of the tube from the airway. In these instances, the recurrent laryngeal nerve may be temporarily damaged. Hair restoration procedures can last a few hours and require frequent movements of the patient's head for proper angulation of the hair placement. This rotation and stretching of the neck is another reason why a fixed airway tube from intubation may result in recurrent laryngeal nerve damage.”

If patients want to feel safe, Dr. Wesley recommends asking about the type of anesthesia that is going to be performed (e.g. general or local). “They should ask who is going to perform the duty and get a rationale for why that type of anesthesia is most appropriate for them.

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