FUE Hair Transplant Primer

As one of the few docs who does FUE routinely in my practice, I think it is interesting that all sorts of new methods for automating the process are being introduced. There have been many iterations of these machines and while none has yet panned out perfectly, I do see some hope on the horizon! For those of you who are novices to the idea here is a comparison of the two techniques;

TRADITION! The traditional FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) or “Strip” technique takes a thin strip of hair from the back and sides of your head. The two sides are brought back together leaving a thin line typically 1-2mm wide as the scar. Often, a “trichophytic closure” is used which allows the hair to grow through the scar, rendering the scar all but invisible. This scar is typically visible only if you buzz your hair shorter than a #2 on a pair of standard clippers (or if you shave your head with a razor.) It is typically NOT visible if you cut the hair at a #3 on clippers (or if you leave it even longer). This goes for wet and dry hair I find.

Traditional hair transplant methods result in stitches for about 7-10 days and obtain up to several thousand grafts per session. The surgery usually takes 8-10 hours (plan on being there the whole day although smaller sessions can end earlier). There is typically nothing visible in the donor areas (back and sides of the head), even immediately after the the procedure! Good surgeons typically charge $4-5 per graft giving it a variable price tag but usually in the $5-$13K range. (Cut-rate grafts are no bargain!) Most hair surgeons agree that this method is generally best for those looking for a single large session and as close to a full correction as possible in a single surgery.

FUE! Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) also takes grafts from the back and sides of the patient’s head individually. Depending on how the patient prefers it, you can either shave the whole head or small “micro-strips” can be shaved for optimal camouflage – but some level of shaving has to be done because the hair has to be short for effective removal. The scars are small – about 1mm in diameter, and if you shaved the head they would look like little dots scattered all over the head. You actually have more scar area with this method, but since it is not in a LINE it is much harder to see!

FUE transplants take a full day as well (8-10 hours) and requires that the patient lies face down and on their side for long periods while the grafts are being removed. Recovery takes about 3-5 days and while there are no stitches, you do have a number of little tiny scabs all over your head which can be covered with hair (or just open if the patient can shave their whole head to start with.) If you shave your whole head, I like to compare the look to being hit with a shot gun, but it heals to a bunch of tiny little pink spots very quickly so amazingly, the patients who choose this option do not seem to mind! Surgeons who practice this technique typically can obtain 500-1000 grafts in a single session and charge $20 or more per graft. The range is large since the success of the procedure depends largely on patient variables that cannot be fully determined until the surgery starts. Most hair surgeons agree that this method is generally best for those looking for a single small session or several smaller sessions to achieve a full correction.

Hope that helps everyone!


Dr. Sara