Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Densitometer
About Header Image

Losing one’s hair can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation for any adult, but, given the importance many women place on their appearance, hair loss in women is an especially taboo subject of conversation. Whether it is a bald patch, diffuse thinning, balding from a medical condition, or scarring from an accident, hair loss can be upsetting or even traumatic for many women.

The good news is that hair restoration pioneers like Dr. Bernstein are bringing the treatment of women’s hair loss out of the cosmetics bag and into the modern era of hair restoration. What a better way of squashing the taboo once and for all than for Dr. Bernstein to appear on national television and confront the issue head-on. Dr. Mehmet Oz invited Dr. Bernstein to appear on his show, the Dr. Oz Show, to discuss the causes and diagnosis of hair loss in women.

As seen in the image above, Dr. Bernstein used a densitometer to evaluate the hair loss of a female member of the audience. The device enables a physician to determine the amount of miniaturization, or genetic thinning, present in the patient’s scalp. Dr. Bernstein also commented on the treatment of hair loss with low level laser therapy (LaserComb).

Dr. Oz and Dr. Bernstein are colleagues at The New York Presbyterian Hospital of Columbia University. They first appeared together on the Oprah Winfrey Show where Dr. Bernstein explained his new hair transplant techniques to Oprah.

See before and after hair transplant photos of some of our female patients.

Posted by

Most medical conditions can best be addressed with early diagnosis. Genetic hair loss is no different. A test now has the ability to identify whether or not you may be genetically predisposed to hereditary male pattern baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia).

The HairDX genetic test offers information that can aid you and your doctor in making an informed decision about the treatment of your hair loss.

This test is not a substitute for an examination by a physician experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of hair loss. It offers one more bit of information that, in the context of other data (such as hair loss pattern, scalp miniaturization and family history) can help guide you and your doctor to formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

How does this test work?

This new genetic test examines genetic variables (SNP) which are responsible for recognizing Androgen hormones in our bodies. These specific genetic variants of the X chromosome (the Androgen Receptor or AR gene) are found in 95-98% of bald men.

These genetic differences are associated with Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) and by identifying them; the onset of MPB might be better predicted. If a person is predisposed genetically to these chromosomal variations, they may be more likely to develop male pattern baldness prior to age forty.

The test consists of a simple swab of the inside of your mouth. The skin cells are then sent to the HairDX clinical laboratory for a confidential analysis.

How accurate is the test in predicting baldness?

HairDX tests for a genetic variant of a gene (the androgen receptor gene) found on the X-chromosome that is present in more than 95% of bald men. Sixty percent of patients with this variant experience male pattern baldness before the age of 40. Therefore, if a person has this gene, they would have an increased risk of significant pattern baldness.

Another, less common genetic variant of the same gene (present in about 1 in 6 men) indicates a greater then 85% likelihood that a person will not experience early onset pattern baldness. If a person is found to have this gene, they are unlikely to become very bald.

Why is the genetic test not 100%?

The androgen receptor gene identified thus far is only one of a number of genes that affect hair loss.

How does the test compare to information obtained from a history and physical exam by your physician?

An assessment of scalp miniaturization by an experienced physician using a densitometer, combined with a history and physical, appears to be a far more reliable way of predicting future hair loss. The genetic test can complement this information, but does not replace it.

Posted by

It has long been thought that the genes for common baldness come from the mother side of the family – explaining why a male whose maternal grandfather is bald is more likely to lose his hair than if his own father were bald. This observation was recently supported by the discovery of the androgen receptor (AR) gene which resides on the X-chromosome.

Remember, there are two sex chromosomes; X and Y. Females have two X chromosomes (XX), while males have one X and one Y chromosome (XY). This means that a male must get his X chromosome from the mother.

But we all have seen that some bald sons have bald fathers, even when no one on the mother’s side of the family has any hair loss. This suggests that the genetics of male pattern alopecia is more complicated, with multiple genes influencing hair growth. And it is likely that the inheritance of baldness is polygenetic, with relevant genes coming from both the x-chromosome of the mother and non-sex chromosomes of either parent. So where are the other genes?

Two independent research groups, one from England and the other Germany, both published in the journal Nature Genetics, have identified a gene locus p11 on chromosome 20 that seems to be correlated with male pattern hair loss, and since the gene is on a non-sex chromosome, it offers an explanation for why the inheritance of common baldness can be from either side of the family. It is important to emphasize that like the AR gene, the chromosome 20p11 locus has only been shown to correlate with hair loss. It is not been shown that either of these genes actually cause baldness.

Unlike many genes whose expression is one or the other (i.e. blue eyes or brown), the 20p11 variations tend to be additive; therefore, men with one affected copy will have a 3.7 fold increase in the chance of having early hair loss and those with two copies a 6.1 fold increase. Men with both the chromosome 20p11 variation and the AR gene will have a seven-fold increase of developing male pattern hair loss at an early age. This gene combination occurs in about 15% of Caucasian men.

The mainstay of predicting future hair loss is with a Densitometer – an instrument used by physicians to measure changes in hair shaft diameter (miniaturization). According to Dr. Robert Bernstein, “Looking at hair shafts under a microscope can spot shrinkage years before it is apparent – we can pick it up when kid are still teenagers.” Early diagnosis is important in androgenetic alopeica because medication is useful only if the hair loss is not too advanced. The genetic studies are significant in that they supply the physician with one more piece of information when developing a master plan for treating a person’s hair loss. See the article in the Wall Street Journal titled, Hair Apparent? New Science on the Genetics of Balding.

While researchers consider these latest discoveries to be of significant merit, caution must be made since these genes are felt to be associated with hair loss, but not yet shown to be causative. More importantly, the associations are not absolute. A clinical evaluation is still the most reliable indicator of future hair loss. Finally, the ability to identify associated genes does not suggest that a “cure” for male pattern baldness is imminent.

Reference
“On the Genetics of Balding,” Wall Street Journal, Vol. 4 – October 1, 2008.

Posted by

Dr. Bernstein, pioneer of Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation, was a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In addition to discussing his hair transplant technique, Dr. Bernstein showed Oprah and Dr. Mehmet Oz the results of a hair transplant on one of his patients. They also showed a video montage of Dr. Bernstein performing a hair restoration procedure.

Please read the full Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration press release below:

New York, NY (PRWEB) October 7, 2008 – The Oprah Winfrey Show features Dr. Bernstein discussing his pioneering follicular unit hair transplant procedure, focusing on the newest diagnostic and treatment techniques for hair restoration. The Oprah Winfrey Show aired Tuesday, October 7th at 4:00PM EST on ABC.

Dr. Bernstein is a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York. He is recognized world-wide for his pioneering work in the treatment of hair loss. Dr. Bernstein is known for developing the revolutionary Follicular Unit Transplantation procedure for hair restoration.

Dr. Bernstein with Dr. Oz and a Patient on the Oprah Winfrey ShowDr. Bernstein with Dr. Oz and a Patient on the Oprah Winfrey Show

After introducing Dr. Bernstein to Oprah, Dr. Mehmet Oz (health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show) presents video footage of Dr. Bernstein performing a hair transplant and then invites the patient live onstage to be inspected by Oprah. In addition to engaging with the audience about baldness and hair transplant procedures, Dr. Bernstein examines a person from the audience who is experiencing early hair loss using an instrument known as a densitometer.

The densitometer is a self-contained, portable, device that houses a magnifying lens for viewing hairs close to the scalp. The idea behind densitometry is to determine the degree of miniaturization, or shrinking of the hair’s diameter, which contributes to hair loss. This information is used to evaluate whether the patient is a good candidate for hair transplant or medical treatment, as well as to predict future hair loss.

“Follicular Unit Transplantation is a procedure where hair is transplanted exclusively in its naturally occurring groups of 1-4 hairs. It is the logical end point of over 30 years of evolution in hair transplantation surgery,” explained Dr. Bernstein. “However, this by no means implies our work is complete. We are obsessed with making the procedure as perfect as possible.”

View the original press release at PRWeb.

Posted by

Q: I am female and thinning can I be a candidate for a Follicular Unit Hair Transplant?

A: If it turns out that you have female pattern hair loss, you may be a candidate a hair transplant, but would need to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in surgical hair restoration.

In the evaluation, you should have your degree of hair loss assessed and donor supply measured, using an instrument called a densitometer, to be certain that you have enough permanent donor hair to meet your desired goals. For more information about hair loss in women, please see the Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Women page of the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website.

If you are thinking about your hair loss and would like to be evaluated, go to the physician consult page to schedule a consultation.

Posted by

Densitometry - Hair Transplant Forum International - March/April 1997To give hair restoration surgeons more precise diagnostic information in their evaluation for patients considering hair transplants, Dr. Bernstein uses the techniques of densitometry and video-microscopy to analyze the scalp under high-powered magnification.

The technique gives important information on hair density, the composition of the patient’s follicular units and the diameter of their hair shafts. The new instruments give doctors vital information for making decisions about whether patients are candidates for hair transplant surgery, the amount of donor tissue needed for the hair restoration, and to help them better predict how the results of hair transplants will ultimately look.

For more information, please see Dr. Bernstein’s publication on densitometry, a podcast on hair transplantation that discusses densitometry, and the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration press release on the news below:

Baldness Detection Devices Featured in Medical Journal

Hair Transplant Forum International publishes new article on hand-held instruments used in hair loss detection and planning for hair transplants.

The lead article in the March/April issue of the journal published by The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) focuses on the latest tools available for assessing whether or not a person experiencing hair loss is a good candidate for hair transplant surgery.

The cover story: “Densitometry and Video-microscopy” written by Robert M. Bernstein, M.D. and William R. Rassman, M.D. explores the often overlooked diagnostic practice of analyzing the scalp under high-power magnification. Getting an extreme close-up of hair patterns at the base of the scalp allows hair transplant surgeons and dermatologists a chance to not only screen candidates for appropriateness for surgery, but can also predict future hair loss patterns.

Dr. Bernstein, founder of the New York based Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration, is known for his pioneering work in new hair transplantation techniques. When asked why he thought the article was given so much prominence in the Hair Transplant Forum, he suggested that “these simple hand held instruments should be essential tools of the hair transplant doctor.” He cautioned that without precise measurements doctors run the risk of performing surgery on persons who may is not suited for this procedure.

Dr. Bernstein has authored over 50 papers on hair transplantation including some of the most influential research on techniques used to repair badly performed hair transplants. In his seminal publications describing Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), Dr. Bernstein introduced a brand new method of hair restoration surgery which recognized follicular units (groups of naturally growing hair follicles) as the ideal element of donor tissue to be used in hair transplants. FUT is now considered to be the state-of-the-art in surgical hair restoration.

Dr. Bernstein and his colleague Dr. Rassman began utilizing the Densitometer to determine specific hair characteristics such as hair density, and changes in hair diameter that are important in both determining who are potential surgical candidates for the new hair transplant procedures and who may respond to medications.

The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), a non-profit organization of over 700 hair restoration doctors, publishes Hair Transplant Forum to keep the Society abreast of the most recent developments in the field of hair transplantation.

Dr. Bernstein is known to the general public from his appearances on NBC’s Today Show with Matt Lauer, CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, The Discovery Channel and other nationally syndicated programs.

Posted by

Q: I have read that in the evaluation of a patient for hair restoration surgery some doctors use a densitometer to measure miniaturization – the decrease in size of hair diameters. I read that miniaturization is a sign of genetic hair loss, but when there is miniaturization of greater than 20% in the donor area, a person may not be a good candidate for hair transplants. Is this correct and does 20% miniaturization mean that 20% of the population of terminal hairs have become fine vellus-like hairs or that there is a 20% decrease in the actual diameter of each of the terminal hairs? — B.A., New Albany, Ohio

A: Miniaturization is the decrease in hair shaft length and diameter that results from the action of DHT on healthy, full thickness terminal hairs. The hairs eventually become so small that they resemble the fine, vellus hair normally present in small numbers on the scalp and body. Miniaturized hairs have little cosmetic value. Eventually miniaturized hairs will totally disappear. Twenty percent miniaturization refers to the observation, under densitometry, that 20% of the hairs in an area show some degree of decreased diameter.

In the evaluation of candidates for hair transplantation, we use the 20% as a rough guide to include all hairs that are not full thickness terminal hairs. Of course we are most interested in the presence of intermediate diameter hairs — i.e. those whose diameters are somewhere between terminal and vellus and are clearly the result of DHT. I don’t know if one can tell the difference on densitometry between vellus hairs, fully miniaturized hairs and senile alopecia. The partially miniaturized population is most revealing.

Miniaturization in the recipient scalp (i.e. the balding areas on the front top and crown that we perform hair transplants into) is present in everyone with androgenetic hair loss. Miniaturization in the donor area, however, is less common (in men). It means that the donor area is not stable and will not be permanent. Men with more than 20% of the hair in the donor area showing miniaturization are generally not good candidates for hair transplant surgery.

Read about Miniaturization
Read about Candidacy for Hair Transplant Surgery

Posted by

Q: Why should a doctor measure miniaturization in the donor area before recommending a hair transplant? — E.B., Key West, F.L.

A: Normally, the donor area contains hairs of very uniform diameter (called terminal hairs). In androgenetic hair loss, the action of DHT causes some of these terminal hairs to decrease in diameter and in length until they eventually disappear (a process referred to as “miniaturization“). These changes are seen initially as thinning and eventually lead to complete baldness in the involved areas.

These changes affect the areas that normally bald in genetic hair loss, namely the front and top of the scalp and the crown. However, miniaturization can also affect the donor or permanent regions of the scalp (where the hair is taken from during a hair transplant). If the donor area shows thinning, particularly when a person is young, then a hair transplant will not be successful because the transplanted hair would continue to thin in the new area and eventually disappear. It is important to realize that just because hair is transplanted to another area, that doesn’t make it permanent – it must have been permanent in the area of the scalp it initially came from.

Unfortunately, in its early stages, miniaturization cannot be seen with the naked eye. To detect early miniaturization a doctor must use a densitometer, or an equivalent instrument, that magnifies the surface of the scalp at least 20-30 times. This enables the doctor to see early changes in the diameter of the hairs that are characteristic of miniaturization. If hairs of varying diameter are noted (besides the very fine vellous hairs that normally occur in the scalp), it means that the hair is being affected by DHT and the donor area is not truly permanent.

In this situation, a person should not be scheduled for hair transplantation. If the densitometry reading is not clear, i.e. the changes are subtle and the doctor is not sure, then the decision to have surgery should be postponed. By waiting a few years, it will be easier to tell if the donor area is stable. Having surgery when the donor area is miniaturizing can be a major problem for a patient, since not only will the transplanted hair eventually disappear, but the scar(s) in the donor may eventually become visible. This problem will occur with both follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE).

Posted by

Q: Can stress accelerate hair loss? I am 25 and there is balding on my dad’s side of the family. I never had any thinning or hair loss till this year. I guess you can say I’ve been under a lot of stress. When I did notice shortly after my 25th birthday I started stressing even more, which led to more hair loss. It is thinner up front and it is thin on top. I have heard of some hair docs mapping your head for miniaturization, do you do this too? — E.W., Miami, FL

A: Yes. The presence of miniaturization (decreased hair diameter) in the areas of thinning allows us to distinguish between hair loss due to heredity (i.e. androgenetic alopecia) — in which hair progressively decreases in diameter under the influence of DHT — and other causes. The degree of miniaturization can be assessed using a hand-held instrument called a densitometer.

The pattern of hair loss and the family history are also important in the diagnosis.

Stress more commonly produces telogen effluvium, a generalized shedding that is not associated with miniaturization and is often reversible without treatment.

Posted by

The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) has named Dr. Bernstein the ‘Pioneer of the Month’ in their official publication, the Hair Transplant Forum International.

Below is the article that appeared in the publication announcing Dr. Bernstein as the recipient of the honor. Dr. Bernstein is also a member of the society.

Hair Transplant Forum International
September-October 2006

Pioneer of the Month – Robert M. Bernstein, MD
by Jerry E. Cooley, MD Charlotte, North Carolina

Pioneer of the Month – Robert M. Bernstein, MDThe term “follicular unit transplantation” (FUT) has become so firmly embedded in our consciousness that we often consider it synonymous with hair transplantation in general. Surgeons new to the field may be unaware of its origin and how the concept evolved. In the 1980s, many separate clinics were developing total micrografting techniques to improve the naturalness of hair transplantation. In 1988, Dr. Bobby Limmer began developing a technique consisting of single strip harvesting with stereomicroscopic dissection of the hair follicles within the strip, which he published in 1994.

After observing histologic sections of scalp biopsies, dermatopathologist Dr. John Headington coined the term “follicular unit” in 1984 to describe the naturally occurring anatomic groupings of hair follicles. In 1995, a surgeon just entering the field of hair transplantation became aware of these natural “follicular units” and came to believe that they should be the building blocks for all hair transplants. His name was Bob Bernstein.

From 1995 to 2000, Bob and his colleague Dr. Bill Rassman articulated the rationale and benefits of FUT in dozens of publications and numerous lectures. Doubtlessly, Bob’s extraordinary effort advocating FUT in public forums during that time was critical to FUT’s rapid evolution and acceptance among surgeons.

Bob was born in New York City and raised on Long Island, New York. For college, Bob headed south to Tulane University in New Orleans. Next, he went to medical school in Newark at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He then went on to a residency in dermatology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he served as chief resident.

Bob performed some punch grafting procedures in residency and a few more when he started his cosmetically focused dermatology practice in 1982. Not liking the results, he didn’t perform another transplant for 12 years. In the summer of 1994, Bob saw a patient of Dr. Ron Shapiro for a dermatologic problem. Impressed with the results of the surgery, Bob began speaking with Ron about the changes in the field. Ron encouraged him to attend the next ISHRS meeting in Toronto, which he did. While there, he saw several of Dr. Rassman’s patients presented and was greatly impressed.

Soon after, he was in Bill’s office observing micrograft “megasessions.” One of the things that caught Bob’s attention was Bill’s use of the “densitometer” to quantify the patients’ hair density. Bob noticed that the hair surprisingly grew in small groups. Bill half jokingly told Bob that he should give up his dermatology practice and go into hair restoration and invited him back for a second visit. On the 5-hour plane ride to Los Angeles, Bob thought about the potential of only transplanting those small groups he saw with the densitometer, and wrote the outline of a paper entitled, “Follicular Transplantation” (published that same year). The second visit with Bill confirmed his interest in hair transplants and, in particular, developing this idea of FUT. He quickly transferred his dermatology practice to a colleague and joined Bill’s group, the New Hair Institute (NHI).

Over the next 10 years, Bob authored and coauthored over 50 papers on FUT addressing issues such as quantifying various aspects of FUs among patients, racial variations, graft sorting, as well as hairline aesthetics, corrective techniques, the use of special absorbable sutures, and FUE and its instrumentation. One of the concepts he emphasized was the recognition of Diffuse Patterned Alopecia (DPA) and Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA), which were originally described by Dr. O’Tar Norwood. Bob helped raise awareness that patients with DUPA and low donor density are not surgical candidates. For all of his many contributions to the field, Bob was awarded the 2001 Platinum Follicle Award.

Branching out in other directions, Bob decided to go to business school and received his MBA from Columbia University in 2004. He did this to learn how to better streamline the day-long hair transplant sessions and improve general management of his growing staff. In 2005, Bob formed his own practice, Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration. Looking to the future, Bob says, “I am excited about the accelerated rate of technical changes to the hair transplant procedure. This is due to an increasing number of really clever minds that have entered the field. Almost every aspect of the surgery is being tweaked and improved upon. It goes without saying that cloning will be the next really big thing—but I think it will take longer to develop than some are promising.” On the down side, he notes, “A concern I have is that, as hair transplant practices grow into big franchises with large marketing campaigns, many people are being directed toward surgery rather than being treated as patients with hair loss in need of an accurate diagnosis, medical treatment, emotional support, and surgery only when appropriate.”

Bob met his wife, Shizuka, who was born in Tokyo, when she was opening a dance studio in the East Village section of New York. She now owns a day spa in midtown Manhattan. Bob has three children; two are in college: Michael, 22, is studying mixed martial arts and foreign language; Taijiro, 21, is majoring in theoretical math. His daughter, Nikita, 12, is in 7th grade and plays on the basketball team. In addition to going to Nikita’s games, Bob enjoys skiing, piano, chess, basketball, philosophy, and music history.

Posted by

Q: Dr. Bernstein, I was reading about a densitometer on your website. What is it and what is it actually used for? — Z.A., Westchester, NY

A: The hair densitometer was introduced to hair restoration surgeons by Dr. Rassman in 1993. It is a small, portable, instrument that has a magnifying lens and an opening of 10mm2.

To use it, the doctor clips the hair short (~ 1-mm) and the instrument is then placed on the scalp. The doctor counts the total number of hairs in the field, looks at the number of hairs per follicular unit and assesses the diameter of the hair, looking in particular for abnormal levels of miniaturization (decreased hair shaft diameter caused by the effects of DHT).

The densitometer can increase the accuracy of the diagnosis of genetic hair loss by picking up early miniaturization.

It can also better assess a person’s donor hair supply, thus helping to determine which patients are candidates for a hair transplant.

Densitometry has helped us define the conditions of diffuse patterned and unpatterned hair loss (DPA and DUPA) and help to refine the diagnosis of hair loss in women.

Posted by

Hair transplant surgeon Robert M. Bernstein M.D. was recently interviewed on the National Public Radio program The People’s Pharmacy. Invited to speak about hair loss, Dr. Bernstein offered insights about the causes of hereditary baldness and it’s solutions, including hair transplantation.

The show was entitled “Dealing with Hair Loss” and addressed issues such as the importance of hair to our sense of well being.

The full hour radio interview was filled with informative facts about male pattern baldness, cultural attitudes toward hair loss and surgical hair restoration. For example, Dr. Bernstein was asked about his pioneering work in follicular unit hair transplantation and host of other questions ranging from the causes of hair loss to the psychological effects of balding. Here is one exchange from the interview:

Moderator: How one can tell the difference between hair loss from hormonal imbalances and common baldness?

Dr. Bernstein: Measuring hormone levels alone, although important for medical management, does not necessarily reveal whether the cause of the hair loss is actually hormone related or is genetic. The diagnosis is made by examining the scalp and looking at the hair under close magnification using an instrument called a “Densitometer.” If the hair shafts are of different calibers, this is relatively diagnostic of female patterned genetic hair loss and in this case hormone levels are often normal. Hormonal changes or imbalances, on the other hand, may cause alterations in hair texture (such as in thyroid disease) or a generalized shedding that can occur after childbirth (called telogen effluvium). In telogen effluvium, the hair can l actually fall out in clumps – you can literally get handfuls of hair, but the hair often returns over time. In genetic hair loss, however, it is not a question of the hair falling out any faster, but the hair being replaced with thinner, finer hair in each hair cycle, until the hair gradually disappears.

Posted by

Cosmetic Surgery Times features Dr. Bernstein’s presentation to the 55th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in their April 1997 issue.

The article entitled, “Follicular Transplants Mimic Natural Hair Growth Patterns,” describes Dr. Bernstein’s introduction of his new procedure, Follicular Unit Transplantation, to the academy as well as the keys to making the technique successful. Find the complete article below:

Form Follows Function: Follicular Transplants Mimic Natural Hair Growth Patterns

By Neil Osterweil
Contributing Editor

SAN FRANCISCO – In recent years, many hair replacement surgeons have adopted the modem architecture philosophy that “less is more,” moving from the use of hair plugs, to split grafts, to minigrafts and, finally, micrografts. But at least one hair transplant specialist contends that a more appropriate architectural dictum is “form follows function.”

In other words, the surgeon should let the technique fit the head, and not the other way around, suggested Robert M. Bernstein, MD, at the 55th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Dr. Bernstein is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University in New York. He described his “follicular transplantation” technique in a meeting presentation and in an interview with COSMETIC SURGERY TIMES.

Natural Hair Groups Used

Dr. Robert M. Bernstein“Hair doesn’t grow singly it grows in naturally occurring groups of from one to four hairs. In follicular transplantation, we use these naturally occurring groups as the unit of the transplant,” he told CST.

The typical follicular unit consists of one to four terminal hairs, one or two vellus hairs, sebaceous glands, subcutaneous fat and a band of collagen which circumscribes and defines the unit. In the follicular transplant technique, the follicular unit is carefully dissected and removed, and then the intervening skin is discarded. This enables the donor site to be small, allowing implantation through a small needle poke. Because trauma to the recipient sites is minimal, the entire procedure can be performed at one time. Dr. Bernstein and colleagues have implanted as many as 3,900 follicular units in a single, 1 day session.

Keys to the follicular transplant technique are:

Identify the patient’s natural hair groupings and isolate the individual follicular units – Hair groupings are assessed with an instrument called a densitometer, and the average size of a person’s groups can be easily calculated. This information is critical in the planning of the transplant. The density of hairs in an individual measured as the number of hairs per square millimeter of skin is quite variable, but the density of follicular units is relatively constant within individual races.

Most people of Caucasian ancestry have a density of approximately one group per millimeter; people of Asian and African descent tend to have slightly less dense growth patterns, although the characteristics of the person’s hair (such as wavy or wiry hair), can give a full appearance even with low density.

If a patient has an average hair density of two, he will receive mostly two hair implants, with some one-hair and three hair implants mixed in. “If you try to make the groups larger than they occur naturally, they will look pluggy. If you try to make them smaller than they naturally occur, they’re not going to grow as well, because each group is actually a little biologic machine that makes the hair — it’s an anatomic unit. If you break it up it just doesn’t grow as well,” Dr. Bernstein observed.

Form Follows Function: Follicular Transplants Mimic Natural Hair Growth Patterns
A 38-year old man with a Norwood Class 5A/6 hair loss pattern undergoes a single procedure of 2,500 follicular implants. The result 11 months later. (Photos courtesy of Robert M. Bernstein, MD)

Harvest meticulously – The acquisition and preparation of grafts must be carefully performed to ensure success for this demanding technique. Highly trained, skilled assistants are essential to the success of the procedure. Dr. Bernstein noted that he uses a highly trained team of up to 10 assistants to produce the implants for a single case. “The assistants, who range from medical technicians to registered nurses, are such an integral part of the procedure that they must become expert in their specific tasks for the surgery to be successful.” The physician must be able to skillfully harvest the donor strip and must be able to make accurate judgments about the size of grafts intra-operatively and adjust the technique accordingly. Dissection and placing of the follicular units is the most labor intensive part of the procedure.

Design the recipient area well – The recipient sites are carefully distributed so that a natural looking pattern is maintained throughout the recipient area. An important consideration for this stage of the procedure is to “frame the face and spare the crown” so those facial features are kept in correct proportion. A common mistake in hair replacement, said Dr. Bernstein, is to create a hairline that is too high thereby elongating the forehead and accentuating, rather than minimizing, the patient’s baldness. It is also important to avoid or eliminate contrast between the implants and surrounding skin by creating a soft transition zone of single hairs and to have the hair emerge from the scalp at natural angles.

Procedure Lowers Cost

Although the procedure is highly labor intensive, it can actually be less expensive than conventional hair replacement surgery, because it can be performed in a single, but lengthy, session.

“It is also much more efficient and conserves donor hair much better than conventional hair transplants. Every time you make an incision in the person’s scalp you waste some hair and make the remaining hair more difficult to remove. Accessing the donor area just once or twice will increase the total amount of hair that is available for the transplant,” Dr. Bernstein told CST.

“In the very near future, the procedure will be improved and made more affordable with automated instruments that will enable the surgeon to make sites and implant the hair in a single motion. This will also decrease the possibility of injury to the implants by reducing handling and keeping the grafts uniformly cool and moist. It is possible that someday hair follicles may be cloned to provide a virtually unlimited supply of custom follicular units, but until then the finite nature of a person’s donor supply must be respected,” concluded the doctor.

Posted by



Browse Hair Restoration Answers by topic:








212-826-2400
Scroll to Top