What is Hair Transplantation?
Hair transplantation, or hair grafting, is the process of moving hair from one location to another. This is usually for balding of the scalp, but can also be to reconstruct eyebrows or even eyelashes.
FUT vs FUE
FUT = Follicular Unit Transplantation. FUT is often called the "Strip" technique as a strip of tissue is taken from the back of the scalp, which contains hairs the hairs to be transplanted. The strip is then divided up into the individual follicular units.
FUE = Follicular unit extraction. With this technique individual hair follicules are removed from the back and sides of the scalp, such that there are multiple tiny scars, rather than one long scar.
Follicular units are the individual hairs along with the follicule that they grow out from. These follicular units may contain one, two or three+ hairs (see photo). The old technique of taking large round circular discs of hair bearing skin (called "plugs") can be seen on the photo to the right, in which a polka-dot pattern is seen on the posterior scalp. When implanted these give an odd looking "dolls-head" appearance, such that this technique has largely been abandoned. The strip technique (FUT) is also shown in this picture leaving a straight line scar on the back of the scalp, and is usually difficult to see. This is the technique I favour, as my experience with FUE is that it often damages the follicules being harvested (sometimes as often as 2 out of every 3), and can also damage the remaining follicles surrounding the one being harvested. This can cause the hair at the back of the scalp to be left very thin.
What is involved?
Hair transplantation is a very time consuming procedure, and the procedure will usually take a whole day to perform. However the procedure is preformed under local anaesthetic, so you can eat and drink as normal, and even get up and walk around. The strip of hair is taken from the back of the scalp and the wound closed with sutures which will require removal in 2 weeks. Some members of the team will then start cutting up the strip of hair into the individual follicles, whilst a surgeon prepares the little holes into which the follicles will be "planted". Preparing the follicles takes a long time and you will be able to watch a film, read a book, walk around, eat or even do some work if you want to!
The final stage is then inplanting a follicle into each of the tiny holes, as is shown in the picture.
There are very few major risks from hair transplantation, however it is still advisable to take a few days off work after the procedure, particularly as there will be some scabbing across the scalp, which will be visible.
It takes around 3 months before the results start to show, and you can enjoy a fuller head of hair.