One of the most popular hair restoration techniques is follicular unit extraction or FUE. FUE is a hair transplant surgery which involves transferring an individual follicular unit or graft from the back of the head to the balding area. The back of the head is referred to as “the safe zone” because the genetics of this area is resistant to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is the hormone that causes hair loss. People tend to believe the entire head of hair has the same genetics but the front, top and crown all have different genetic traits. In order to help you better understand FUE, here some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the surgery:
What is the difference between FUE and FUT?
Follicular unit extraction is often called a diffused dotted extraction. A special tool is used to make tiny circular incisions around selected follicular units of hair which can be between 1 and 4 strands of hair. The incisions leave tiny pin size holes in the safe zone. The unit of hair is then separated and placed where it is needed. Follicular unit transplant is often called the strip technique because it involves removing a linear area of hair from the safe zone. The removed strip of hair is separated by each follicle and placed where it is needed but it does leave a linear scar on the scalp.
What is the number of grafts needed?
The amount of grafts needed depends on several aspects including the patient’s goals, the desired density and the size of the treatment area. The surgeon will make the determination of total grafts during the consultation appointment.
Who is a good candidate for FUE?
FUE is a good option for anyone who wants a hair transplant and prefers to wear their hair style in a shorter fashion. Also, patients who only have a small donor area are better suited for the FUE method. In addition, any patient with limited time off work is a better candidate for FUE due to the fact that it involves less recovery and downtime.
How long does FUE take?
The procedure is very intricate and generally takes between 4 to 10 hours depending on the number of grafts required. However, FUE is limited by the number of grafts which can be extracted within one day. Therefore, a procedure requiring over 2000 grafts may need to be broken up into 2 days.
Is the FUE painful?
FUE is generally not painful during or after the procedure due to the fact that a sedative is given before the procedure begins and local anesthesia is periodically given throughout the procedure. Some mild discomfort, itching and swelling might happen after FUE. These symptoms generally resolve within a few days and pain medication or Tylenol can be used to alleviate any discomfort.
How long is the recovery time?
Although the scars are usually healed within 3 to 4 days, it can take up to 10 days for the safe zone to heal and shed any scabs. Therefore, most patients take 2-7 days off work for recovery due to their post-op appearance.
What are the risks and complications?
Common side effects include swelling, bruising, itching and crustiness. A risk of bleeding and numbness in the treated areas is also common. The biggest risk with any hair transplant surgery is “shock loss” which is post-surgical hair loss caused by tissue damage during the surgery. However, the transplanted hair loss thanks to “shock loss” will start to grow back after 3-4 months.
How long do any scabs last?
After FUE surgery, there will be small circular wounds where the hair was removed. These will close up and scabs will form within 3-5 days. After approximately one week, the scabs will fall off and it will be difficult to notice where the grafts were removed. Any visible scars are seen as tiny dots within the safe zone.
How long before the new hair grows?
At first, the transplanted hair will look like stubble on the head. The new hair will grow very slowly and then enter the resting telogen phase and fall out. Once the transplanted hair enters the anagen growth phase after 3-4 months, they will begin to grow once again.
How long do the final results last?
During the anagen phase, the hair will be thin and fine but will become longer and thicker over the next few months. By 12 months, the final results will start to become evident and have a natural appearance. The final results should last a lifetime as long as the patient properly cares for the hair. In some cases, the donor hair may become thinner as the patient ages. Hair care products such as Rogaine can help to fortify the hair in these cases.