Q: Can I play a contact sport, like football, right after having a FUE procedure?
A: I performed a study (“Graft Anchoring in Hair Transplantation,” Dermatologic Surgery 2006; 32: 198-204) to answer a simple question, one that patients ask all the time: at what point are transplanted grafts so securely anchored in the scalp that they cannot be dislodged?
In the study, it was found that after 10 days the transplanted grafts become a permanent part of the body such that no amount of scrubbing or combing can dislodge them. So, while there are generally no limitations on strenuous exercise after a FUE procedure, we recommend waiting at least 10 days before playing any contact sport, like football, as the grafts could be dislodged if vigorously rubbed.
Q: I heard FUE is a scarless surgery. Is this true using any of the current FUE methods (ARTAS® robot, Neograft, manual FUE)?
A: All hair transplant procedures, follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE), leave scars. FUT produces a linear scar at the back of the scalp that may be visible if you keep your hair short. FUE, on the other hand, leaves small dot scars at the back of the scalp that are not visible if you keep your hair short. These tiny scars will happen regardless of which FUE method is used, i.e., ARTAS robot, SAFE system, Neograft, or manual FUE. Some physicians who use the Neograft method advertise that there is no scarring involved when using the Neograft; however, this is not true: however, this is not true: there is some scarring associated with all FUE methods that increases with the total number of grafts harvested.
Q: I’ve noticed from the chatter on blogs, that it is not uncommon for men to go through multiple FUE procedures over 10+ year time-frame. It seems to be that after the initial FUE procedure to address moderate hair loss, the patient continues their natural balding to where they must undergo another FUE procedure in order to get back to their desired look. I’m almost 33 and while I take Propecia, my hair loss has been very gradual since I was about 26. I still have what many would consider a full head of hair, although very thin and with noticeable loss at my temples and crown. I’d always thought that a hair transplant would be a “1 and done” procedure, and now I’m concerned that if I do an FUE procedure now to replace what’s been already lost, I’ll just have to revisit a subsequent FUE down the line. Are ongoing FUEs simply part of the hair maintenance that a patient needs to accept about hair restoration process?
A: Your concerns are correct and would apply to any hair transplant procedure; FUT or FUE. That is why it is best not to begin hair restoration surgery too early.
Q: I recently saw an episode of the Rachel Ray Show where her guest, Dr. Anthony Youn, said that the Neograft machine for Follicular Unit Extraction is painless and uses a vacuum rather than surgery to remove the grafts. Can this be true?
A: Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) using the Neograft machine is not painless and, while it does not produce a linear scar, it is surgery and there is significant scarring in the form of thousands of tiny holes that heal with round white marks.
In the video, Dr. Anthony Youn asks: “Do you wanna take a feel? It’s just a vacuum.” Rachel Ray states: “You don’t feel a thing.” Youn replies: “No [you don’t].”
This is very deceptive on the part of the doctor, since the instrument is basically a cutting instrument with the suction being used to remove and insert the grafts. Although the suction part would not be painful, the cutting part certainly is and requires the same anesthesia as a traditional hair transplant.
Our main concern is that the machine produces grafts that are sub-optimal with respect to quality and potential growth, as the Neograft’s suction apparatus tends to strip follicles away from their surrounding protective tissue and tends to dry the grafts out.
Q: I have had a hair transplant done in the hairline of 1,000 or so FUE grafts. However, as the hair sheds, under natural light the recipient skin seems bumpy with incisions and holes that are noticeable. Do these tend to go away with time once they have healed?
A: If a follicular unit transplant is performed properly (using either extraction or a strip) there should be no bumps or surface irregularities. When the hair restoration is totally healed, the recipient area should be appear as normal looking skin.
With FUE it is important to sort out the grafts under a microscope, to make sure that all of the grafts placed at the hairline are 1-hair grafts and that the larger grafts are place behind the hairline. They should not be planted without first being sorted under a microscope.
Q: I wanted you to determine if I would be a candidate for FUE (to camouflage a scar). After reading through your vastly informative website, I had become aware that the Fox test is necessary to determine patient viability for FUE. When I mentioned the test, I believe I heard you say it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think there was miscommunication between us, as your letter states that I should schedule a Fox test if I am considering FUE. Please confirm if a Fox test is, in fact, necessary.
A: I perform FOX tests on all patients when I am considering a FUE hair transplant. I do not routinely perform FOX tests before repairs (or on eyebrow transplants) where the number of grafts is relatively small.
The purpose of FUE is to identify those patients in whom FUE is inefficient — i.e. there is a greater than average risk of damage during the harvest. If this is the case, I would not perform the hair transplant since even slight inefficiencies create a significant problem when thousands of grafts are transplanted.
Remember, compared to Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), FUE is a relatively inefficient procedure. Even when a small FUE hair transplant is performed (i.e., in a Norwood Class 3) we have to anticipate that eventually the person will need a large amount of grafts, so a FOX test is still important.
However, when the total number of grafts is small, such as in scar revisions or eyebrow restoration, small inefficiencies are not as important.
In addition, with repairs, the donor area is altered so that extraction in different areas may be very be different, rendering a FOX test in scar revisions far less useful.
Finally, if a FUE hair transplant is started, but then aborted due to extraction difficulties, the patient must either be reverted to a strip (which was not the preferred means of harvesting or a FUT would have been planned to begin with) or the patient will be left with a partial procedure – both less than ideal situations. However, if a FUE repair has to be aborted due to the inability to efficiently harvest hair, no harm was done; we just won’t be able to achieve our goal.
Q: I recently had a follicular unit extraction procedure of 320 grafts to fix an old strip scar. The donor area where the FUE’s were taken looks very diffuse – worse than the original scar ever was, it looks horrible. My doctor said this was just shock loss. Have you seen that happen where the donor area gets all diffuse from shock? If not, have you seen it where the FUE’s are taken in an illogical pattern resulting in new scarring that is noticeable?
A: You can have shedding in the donor area from an FUE procedure, although it is not common. In FUE, the hair must be taken from the permanent zone and if there is too much wastage in the extraction process, too large an area may be needed to obtain the hair. This can leave a thin look even without shock loss (shedding).
Q: I am considering having an FUE procedure and have heard the phrases topping, capping, and tethering as part of the procedure. What do all these terms mean?
A: These are all terms that refer to the types of injury that can occur to grafts during a follicular unit extraction procedure.
In FUE, a sharp instrument (or sharp instrument followed by a blunt one) is used to separate follicular units from the surrounding donor tissue. Forceps are then used to remove the follicular units from the scalp.
Topping occurs in the first step when the doctor accidentally cuts off the top of the graft so that the remainder of the graft cannot be removed.
Capping occurs when the doctor grabs a graft with forceps and the top of the graft (the epidermis and upper dermis) pulls off, leaving the rest of the graft behind.
Tethering occurs when the bottom of the graft is still attached to the deeper tissues after the first step causing the follicular unit to pull apart during extraction.
There are a few other terms used as well.
Shredding occurs when the follicular unit is not totally separated from the surrounding tissue and pulls apart upon extraction. Shredding can also occur when the follicular unit was partially damaged in the first step.
Transection is like topping, but here the mid or lower portion of the hairs in the unit are cut.
Buried grafts occur when the graft is pushed into the sub-cutaneous space rather than extracted. Buried grafts can usually be removed, but if not removed completely, may turn form small cysts.
Q: I had a hair transplant of over 600 grafts using Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) to my frontal hairline and the frontal part of my scalp. The procedure was done less than a year ago by another doctor. Since then I have had persistent pimples and redness in the area that the grafts were placed. Also, the surface of the skin in the area is irregular.
A: One of the causes of having pimples and redness following Follicular Unit Extraction may be buried hair fragments and there are significantly more hair fragments generated with the two-step FUE technique than with the three-step method.
In the three-step procedure, we use blunt dissection which minimizes transection (cutting of hair follicles) and thus reduces the incidence of hair fragments. See the Three-Step FUE page at the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website.
In our practice, we also place every extracted graft under the microscope. This serves a number of purposes:
It gives me immediate feedback on transection rates, so that I can adjust my technique in real-time (using a stereo-microscope is much better than visual inspection for this purpose)
It enables us to trim away excess tissue and hair fragments (we use the same judgment as we do with strip harvesting, so that a “viable looking” fragment would be left attached
It allows us to accurately count the number of hairs in each follicular unit graft, as it is particularly important to have pure 1-hair grafts for the frontal hairline. This also allows us to better anticipate the end cosmetic result.
It allows us to dissect larger follicular units into smaller ones for specific cosmetic purposes, i.e. eyebrows, hairlines, temples etc.
One of the ironies of FUE is that it is more efficient to extract the larger FUEs, since this gives us a greater hairs/hole ratio, but this often leaves us with an inadequate number of 1-hair units, which must be obtained though traditional stereo-microscopic dissection of the larger extracted grafts.
Other causes of folliculitis (manifested by pimples and redness) can result from placing the grafts too deep in the recipient site (where they may get buried) and secondary infection. A mild, transient folliculitis is often seen after a hair transplant without any precipitation factors.
Q: I am trying to have my donor scar repaired after a 1000 graft hair transplant. I was told the FUE’s placed into the scar would conceal it enough to shave my head? I would like to shave my head completely bald with a razor.
A: In general, after a scar correction with follicular unit extraction you can clip your hair very short, but not shave your head. If you shaved your hair completely bald, you would generally see a vague outline of the linear scar as well as the small scars from FUE.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this website is to provide the public with general information on hair restoration and related medical topics. Information provided on this site should not be used for medical diagnosis and/or treatment.
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