Hair Transplantation Basics
Hair loss and thinning is very common to varying degrees in both men and women as they age. There is an assortment of causes to hair loss, including age, hormonal changes and genetics. And although it is of no consequence to an individual’s action or inaction, hair loss brings about ideas of shame, stigma and can significantly impact one’s confidence.
Hair transplant is the most effective method of hair restoration known to date. While hair transplant has been around for decades, in the forms of hair plugs which previously created unnatural pattern of hair restoration, new hair transplants techniques allow for natural-looking hair growth that seamlessly blends with the rest of the hair and minimizes scarring.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Hair lost, known as alopecia, is common and can affect almost all people at different times in their life. Hair lost can be both temporary or permanent and treatment depends on the cause of hair loss. The following are causes that have been found associated with hair loss.
Genetics – it is no surprise to say there is a genetic component to hair loss as male pattern baldness, known as androgenetic alopecia, tends to run within a family. Men often experience hair loss more than women and male pattern baldness involves the recession of the hairline in the front corners of their scalp resulting in a “widow’s peaks” type pattern.
Aging – Hair follicles age, just like any other part of the body, and as a result of this aging process, it can results in hair loss.
Stress – physical and emotional stress has also been correlated with hair loss. As the level of stress increases, it can often results in an increase loss of hair. Usually the loss of hair from stress is reversible
Health Conditions – there are some health conditions and vitamin/mineral deficiencies that is associated with the loss of hair. If you experience a sudden loss of hair, it is important to visit your family doctor for basic health screening to determine if hair loss is due to a medical condition or a deficiency
Life Changes – hormonal changes in the body can also cause hair loss. This is common in women as they go through pregnancy or menopause where there is an increase loss of hair due to hormonal changes in the body.
Medications – some medications can cause hair loss. If you experience hair loss after starting a new medication, it is important to speak your family doctor about your concerns
Follicular Unit Transplantation
Follicular Unit Extraction
A scalpel is used to remove a strip of hair follicles
A scalpel is used to remove a strip of hair follicles
Area of involvement
Smaller sections of involvement
More diffuse are of harvest
Longer recovery time
Faster recovery time
Linear scars that is more visible with short hair styles
Lower post-operative discomfort
Sutures are placed after Extraction
Scarring is less noticeable
Smaller donor area
Greater donor area
Shorter procedure times
Longer procedure due to diffuse extraction
Candidates for hair transplantation are individuals who are in good health, who have hair loss in isolated areas who have an adequate donor site hair and density. In some very rare cases for follicular unit extraction, hair can alternately be donated from other parts of the body, including the beard and even potentially the groin, but this is rare.
Typically follicular unit transplantation is a more common procedure as it is a faster procedure with lower costs. However, in situations where the individual has limited scalp mobility and it is difficult to remove a strip of hair from the scalp and suture the area closed, follicular unit extraction is more a suitable procedure.
There are two methods of hair transplantation today: Follicular unit transplantation and Follicular Unit Extraction. Both methods involves the transplantation of individual follicular units which contains 1-4 hairs but differs in the method through which it is extracted.
In follicular unit transplantation, also called strip harvesting, a surgeon uses the scalpel to excise a strip of hair follicles from the donor side, divides the strip into individual follicle units and places it back into the scalp. In comparison, in follicular unit extraction, also called follicular transfer, surgeons remove individual follicle units with the use of punch instruments from donor sites and is then replaces these treated units back into the scalp. Both methods involve the strategic placement of the hair follicles into the recipients scalp to provide the most natural result available.
Typically, follicular unit transplant is a more common procedure as strips of follicles are removed faster then individual follicular units being extracted resulting in a lower costs for the overall procedure.
Recovery time for FUE hair transplantation is faster compared to FUT as there are smaller individual wounds created by the hair removal process that typically heals completely within a week. Patients can return to work and all normal activities, including strenuous activities like exercise, within a day or two. Most patients can even shower the day after the surgery, although they should avoid applying pressurized water directly on their scalp until the wounds have fully healed.
Recovery time for FUT hair transplantation is longer. Pain and swelling in the donor area resolves over 1-2 weeks and sutures need to be removed in the first follow up appointment. The recovery time for the transplant area is longer and a hat should be worn to avoid direct sunlight for about two weeks. Haircuts should be postponed for at least three week after surgery. As with any surgery, patients should keep a close watch for any continuing pain or any type of infection that could potentially develop after the surgery.