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Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that removes hair follicles from one part of the body, called the 'donor site', to a bald or balding part of the body known as the 'recipient site'. The technique is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness. In this minimally invasive procedure, grafts containing hair follicles that are genetically resistant to balding, (like the back of the head) are transplanted to the bald scalp. Hair transplantation can also be used to restore eyelashes, eyebrows, beard hair, chest hair, pubic hair and to fill in scars caused by accidents or surgery such as face-lifts and previous hair transplants. Hair transplantation differs from skin grafting in that grafts contain almost all of the epidermis and dermis surrounding the hair follicle, and many tiny grafts are transplanted rather than a single strip of skin.

Since hair naturally grows in groupings of 1 to 4 hairs, current techniques harvest and transplant hair "follicular units" in their natural groupings. Thus modern hair transplantation can achieve a natural appearance by mimicking original hair orientation. This hair transplant procedure is called follicular unit transplantation (FUT). Donor hair can be harvested in two different ways: strip harvesting, and follicular unit extraction (FUE).

Pre-operative assessment and planning

At an initial consultation, the surgeon analyzes the patient's scalp, discusses their preferences and expectations, and advises them on the best approach (e.g. single vs. multiple sessions) and what results might reasonably be expected. Pre-operative folliscopy will help to know the actual existing density of hair, so that postoperative results of newly transplanted hair grafts can be accurately assessed. Some patients may benefit with preoperative topical minoxidil application and vitamins.

For several days prior to surgery, the patient refrains from using any medicines which might result in intraoperative bleeding and resultant poor grafting. Alcohol and smoking can contribute to poor graft survival. Post operative antibiotics are commonly prescribed to prevent wound or graft infections.
Harvesting methods

Transplant operations are performed on an outpatient basis, with mild sedation (optional) and injected local anesthesia. The scalp is shampooed and then treated with an antibacterial agent prior to the donor scalp being harvested.

There are several different techniques for harvesting hair follicles, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of the harvesting technique, proper extraction of the hair follicle is paramount to ensure the viability of the transplanted hair and avoid transection, the cutting of the hair shaft from the hair follicle. Hair follicles grow at a slight angle to the skin's surface, so transplanted tissue must be removed at a corresponding angle.

There are two main ways in which donor grafts are extracted today, we use follicular unit extraction.

With Follicular Unit Extraction or FUE harvesting, individual follicular units containing 1 to 4 hairs are removed under local anesthesia; this micro removal typically uses tiny punches of between 0.6mm and 1.0mm in diameter. The surgeon then uses very small micro blades or fine needles to puncture the sites for receiving the grafts, placing them in a predetermined density and pattern, and angling the wounds in a consistent fashion to promote a realistic hair pattern. The technicians generally do the final part of the procedure, inserting the individual grafts in place.

FUE takes place in a single long session or multiple small sessions. The FUE procedure is more time consuming than strip surgery. An FUE surgery time varies according to the surgeons experience, speed in harvesting and patient characteristics. The procedure can take anywhere from a couple hours to extract 200 grafts for a scar correction to a surgery over two consecutive days for a megasession of 2,500 to 3,000 grafts. With the FUE Hair Transplant procedure, there are restrictions on patient candidacy.

FUE can give very natural results. The advantage over strip harvesting is that FUE harvesting negates the need for large areas of scalp tissue to be harvested, so there is no linear incision on the back of the head and it doesn't leave a linear scar. Because individual follicles are removed, only small, punctate scars remain which are virtually not visible and any post-surgical pain and discomfort is minimized. As no suture removal is required, recovery from Micro-Grafting FUE is less than 7 days.