The Follicular Unit Extraction Hair Transplant

The Follicular Unit Extraction Hair Transplant

While science has yet to achieve a major breakthrough in reversing hair loss, we at least have the next best thing: Hair Transplantation.  This process has gone through a lot of developments in the last few years and have made significant strides in the positive direction.

After deciding to proceed with hair transplant, a client with hair loss problems will still need to choose which type of procedure he/she prefers. Given two main options, the client may opt to choose the more affordable, traditional type of transplant called Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) or the relatively more advanced procedure called the Follicular Unit Extraction or FUE.

FUE is an innovation in hair transplant technology that involves the removal of individual hair grafts one at a time before implanting them on the target area. This procedure uses special motorized equipment that extracts from the back portion of the scalp or other areas not affected by hair loss. Certain advancements in this field go even beyond normal donor areas. The new approach, dubbed as Advanced FUE, allows the construction of bigger donor pools by collecting follicles from areas aside from the head such as legs, chest, arms, back, abdomen and even beard. This technique helps in improving the growth trajectory of the hair which is ideally curved and not straight. This provides a safer form of excision that makes the risk of follicle damage remains relatively lower than normal.

Background and History

Introduced in 1988 by Masumi Inaba in Japan, the technique presented the practice of using a 1-mm needle for removing follicular units from donor areas. After some developments, FUE was then successfully performed in Australia by Dr. Ray Woods on public patients.

The use of robotics in conducting FUE was first discussed in 2007 at the International Society of Hair Restoration and Surgery or ISHRS. In 2008, the Berman Skin Institute in Palo Alto and the Restoration Robotics in Mountain View, California conducted studies that would later show a significantly higher rate of individual extraction (1000 follicles per hour) using 1-mm hollow needles. While it showed promise in speed, the transection rate (number of follicles damaged by the process) measured at a rate of 6–15% is still high to be used in general transplant procedures.

Another approach, which was developed and later proven effective, is the Body Hair Follicular Unit Extraction, which takes grafts from other parts of the body and then transplanted to the scalp. The technique was introduced by Dr. Ray Woods in 1998. It is interesting to note that, according to findings, the body hair which would normally grow up to only 4 cm, when planted to the scalp it would grow up to 15 cm.

Over time, one would expect that there will be a lot of surgeons which have become skilled at the process of FUE. However, due to the given of the procedure, this is not the case. It normally takes a substantial length of time and expense to study and to improve skills to a great standard.

One of the main factors of a successful hair transplant is the survival of follicular units after scalp extraction. During removal, if follicles are transected, there is a higher chance that these will not last the transplant. This will result in the failure of the operation. One advantage of the traditional FUT process of using strip-harvesting of follicles is that it normally guarantees a bigger number of non-transected units. FUE processes usually transect grafts, making them eventually useless in the transplant.

Of course, the skill of the surgeon should always be taken in consideration. Over the years, there have been substantial efforts to reduce the rate of transection in FUE procedures. It is known that the other factor in graft survival is the time it was extracted out of the scalp and exposed to air.

With most operations, FUE harvesting naturally causes “pit” scarring in the client’s donor area where the grafts have been removed. These scars are usually small, rounded, and normally white in appearance. Compared with FUT, which creates a linear blemish in the donor spot where the strip of graft was extracted, FUE is much harder to detect.


Cost of FUE

Due to newer technological advancements, hair transplants have relatively become more affordable. Determining the exact cost of the procedure, though, is quite a bit tricky. This is because the price of your FUE transplant procedure is based on a number of factors:

The extent of the hair loss- The larger the area of the thinning hair is, the more hair follicle units it needs to be covered. That will definitely be the most determining factor.

How much donor hair is available- Since the hair follicles needed to implant to the target must come from the same host, the volume of extractable hair must be taken in consideration.

Surgeon’s fee- The surgeon and clinic who will perform the operation will also dictate the amount of money one needs to spend to undergo such operation. While the average cost of each graft is around $6-$9 a graft, it will still depend on the rates the surgeon and clinic may offer to conduct the transplant.

Aside from those factors mentioned, a comprehensive hair transplant may also include vitamin/medical supervision, hair therapy, and other extra services that the client may require. Currently, $5500 to $12,000 is a safe approximation of the total costs a client may spend for the procedure with consideration of factors mentioned above.

In conclusion, it is highly important that the patient is largely involved in the details of the surgery. Be careful in negotiating by the number of hairs to be surgically relocated as this is not the way to approach this. It is best to think about the background, experience and training of the actual surgeon who will be doing your FUE transplant. Remember, as with most surgery, the effect of the procedure is final and often times permanent. It is always better safe than sorry.

Like with many forms of aesthetic surgery, such costs are but a small price to pay for such endeavor. Is it not worth shelling a few hundred dollars in exchange for having better confidence and younger looks?