We’re taking a week off from posting new content — our first break in almost 6 years — so we’re using this opportunity to repost some older articles that didn’t get the attention they deserved the first time around.
(Originally published on April 5, 2007.)
I’ve put together a nice list of things to consider if you’re interested in having a hair transplant, particularly when comparing the Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) technique and the Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT / strip) technique.
- There will not be a detectable scar in donor area. Of course the scar will be present after every skin incision, but since scars are very small and scattered in a larger area, they are not detectable even on a head with a close crew cut.
- There are no sutures or staples to be removed. The small pointy wounds on the back of the head will be left to be closed on their own with no sutures or bandages.
- There is minimal or no pain in donor area after the removing the grafts.
- Not everyone is a good candidate for this procedure. We always test our patients before doing the actual procedure with several biopsies with different methods and view the grafts under microscope to see whether we can harvest them without damaging the hair follicles. If we see a lot of transected (damaged) follicles, we can not proceed with this procedure.
- It is more expensive (almost double the cost compared to the strip procedure). Follicular Unit Extraction is very tedious and every graft should be individually extracted by the surgeon as opposed to the strip method where skin is removed first and grafts are harvested under a microscope.
- It takes more time, sometimes up to twice the time when compared to a strip procedure for the same number of grafts. A procedure to harvest one thousand grafts may take six to eight hours.
- A large area of the scalp needs to be shaved or clipped very short. This is not acceptable for many patients.
There are a few issues that are important to look at and understand. Hairs within a graft can be killed by improper harvesting (e.g. drying, cutting it at a critical point in the anatomy of the hair follicle within a follicular unit). This can happen if there is poor cutting techniques in strip harvesting, or in actual transection of hairs within a follicular unit during an FUE procedure. I personally do not believe most of the doctors who claim 95+% successful hair counts from FUE and I would love to pay a visit to some of these doctors and actually do the hair count from their FUE extracted grafts.
Thick grafts (those that are transplanted with fat around the follicular unit) can tolerate air exposure longer than a skinny graft (which can dry in seconds when exposed to the air). But tolerating air exposure for longer than 10-20 seconds suggests to me that hair follicle death may occur and the staff do not have strict quality control process implemented. What is important is not how many hairs are extracted successfully and anatomically intact. The important question to ask is, “Will they grow?”
The best part about strip harvesting is that there is a very high yield with the experienced team. The risks of scar formation that is detectable (greater than 3mm wide) is about 5% with the first procedure, 10% with a second procedure, and higher with a third procedure. Other than the scar possibilities and a slightly more painful recover period of a day or two, the strip procedure is more cost effective and more efficient from a time and yield point of view.