A person’s hair is said to be their crowning glory. Other than providing a protective cover for your scalp, your hair can also become a part of your identity. It is this aspect that leads people who are not happy with their hair to take measures to correct it. A massive industry has grown out of people’s concern about losing their hair.
Most of the people who experience hair loss are male, and their predicament is, in most cases, linked to the natural process known as balding. For hair that is balding, plastic surgeons have come up with surgical procedures that might be just what you need to regain your former glory.
Hair transplant involves removing hair from a donor site to recipient area of the scalp. The donor site is normally the neck or sides of the head while the recipient area is where the hair loss has occurred.
Types of Hair Transplant
FUT stands for follicular unit transplant. In this surgical procedure, the patient is anesthetized after which the surgeon extracts strips of tissue bearing hair from the donor area. These strips are then cut into units.
A stereo-microscopic dissection ensures precision in the dissection process. Each unit excised is, therefore, structurally sound. After making tiny holes in the recipient sites, the doctor, team of nurses, or other healthcare personnel then grafts each unit in place.
FUE is the initial letters for follicular unit extraction. This surgical process requires a specialist doctor who removes individual hair follicles from a donor area (usually around the nape of the neck). The doctor then makes tiny incisions into the site that is to receive the transplant. Into each incision, a follicle is planted at an angle.
Both the extraction and the placing of the follicles are done with special tools, which make the process faster than it sounds. The placement of the follicles is also done so as to attain a density that will look natural. FUE is a more modern method than FUT.
Each of the two transplant methods has their strong and weak points, but choosing the one you prefer is an individual decision. FUE is the more popular worldwide, and these are the reasons.
Pros and Cons of FUE and FUT
Since FUE targets individual follicles, there is minimal scarring as the wounds are very small. They are not easily visible unless one is keen and close. An obvious benefit of the tiny wounds is that the healing time is also significantly shorter.
Most patients recover within 7 days. The post-operation period is also marked by minimal pain or discomfort because of the size of the wounds.
In contrast, FUT patients have a fairly large strip of tissue removed at the back of their head and the healing time on average is 10 days. The likelihood of developing a scar at the site is also greater, although this is usually just a fine line. On the other hand, this small area of harvesting the transplant follicles is contrasted with the larger donor section for an FUE patient.
FUT gives a good quality yield of hair than FUE. This is because the extraction process involves tissue and the follicles within it. The deep incision ensures that the hair follicles are intact within the unit. Moreover, the units are taken from the same region of skin and will be more or less uniform. Since the follicles are spaced at a natural distance from each other, they produce a fuller crown of hair.
The FUE procedure harvests hair from all over the head. This means that the harvested hair follicles are of different quality and even texture. To make it worse, because each hair follicle is extracted individually, there is a higher likelihood of it getting damaged in the process. Since extracting the tissue surrounding the follicle is not considered in FUE, a hair follicle might get cut incorrectly.
Sometimes, the doctor makes a mistake as he tries to identify the position of the hair root, especially where the hair is angled or slants. Since he cannot see below the skin, he ends up cutting the root or protective layer of the hair and destroying its viability for transplanting.
Generally speaking, FUE yields poorer quality hair for transplanting. However, a newer FUE technology that uses a robot for the process is more precise than the manual method, thereby producing considerably better, more consistent outcomes.
As a man becomes bald, there are areas that will be left with permanent hair and those close to the bald section could be part of the bald patch over time. If an FUE surgeon harvests hair from an area that will in future become bald, it is possible that that hair follicle will not settle permanently in its recipient area.
Since the surgeon is limited to extracting a maximum of 20% of hair per region, he might be forced to search for hair in areas with poor quality. Furthermore, any future extractions will lessen the quality even more.
A majority of hair transplant patients will shy away from FUT because of the scar it leaves behind. However, this scar is only visible if the hair is cropped short. Any future FUT transplant is also harvested from the same site without increasing the size of the scar.
FUE, on the other hand, risks producing visibly thinned hair in areas where overharvesting has taken place. The dots from previous FUE procedure can combine with the scars of a new session to form patches of skin that look discolored.
There are patients who undergo both FUE and FUT. The advantage of this is that the shortcomings of one procedure can be covered by the strengths of the other. More often, it is because the previously chosen procedure has not yielded the expected results. Should you decide to pursue the path of both these procedures, it is advisable that you have your transplant in a facility that offers them.
This will enable consultations between experts in both fields. You can then be sure the benefits will trickle down to you. This saves you from going to a specialist in one of the procedures and requesting the doctor to also carry out the other procedure, which he may lack the skills for.
Dr. Josh Surowitz and Dr. Andrea Garcia of Dilworth Facial Plastic Surgery are renowned, board-certified facial plastic surgery specialists in Charlotte, North Carolina.