Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA)
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The 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery was held in San Francisco from October 13 through 26, 2013. The meeting covers the most important scientific and clinical advances in the field of surgical hair restoration.

As a member of the panel on “Difficult Cases,” that explored challenging and atypical medical conditions and their treatment, Dr. Bernstein presented the “Management of Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia.” This condition is a form of primary scarring hair loss. Dr. Bernstein chose to discuss this disease because it can be mistaken for common baldness; however, since the transplanted hair will be destroyed by the disease process, it is a contra-indication for hair transplantation. Since missing this diagnosis can lead to unnecessary and ineffectual surgery, an awareness of its signs and symptoms are important for every physician managing patients with hair loss.

On the panel on “Post Finasteride Syndrome,” Dr. Bernstein was part of a group that reviewed the latest studies on the efficacy and safety of finasteride in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. They discussed possible adverse events including claims of persistent sexual dysfunction (Post Finasteride Syndrome) and concerns relating to prostate cancer. They also discussed the challenges that arise in caring for patients when scientific research and the mass media give conflicting information.

In the Symposium “Question the Expert,” Dr. Bernstein presented a case of Diffuse Un-patterned alopeica (DUPA). This condition was first detailed by Dr. Bernstein in his landmark paper “Follicular Transplantation: Patient Evaluation and Surgical Planning,” that was published in Dermatologic Surgery in 1997. DUPA is a form of androgenetic alopecia that presents as rapid generalized hair loss in young adults. Besides being a significant psychological burden for young men and women, its identification is extremely important since medical intervention can have a significant positive impact when instituted early. On the other hand, a misdiagnosis that leads to surgery can result in a failed hair transplant and donor scarring that may become visible over time.

Dr. Bernstein was also the Keynote Speaker for the ARTAS International Users Forum. His presentation, titled “Follicular Unit Extraction: Then and Now,” discussed the evolution of FUT, FUE and Robotic-FUE and how it relates to today’s hair restoration practice. Of particular significance was the natural progression of FUE instrumentation from hand-held manual tools to robotic assisted hair transplantation. Dr. Bernstein explained that in the future, robotic capabilities will not be limited to graft extraction, but eventually will perform each aspect of the transplant including recipient site creation, and graft placement. See “Dr. Bernstein Gives Keynote Presentation On Robotic Hair Transplantation” for more details on the presentation and some photographs of the event.

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Q: What is the Origin of the Term DUPA? — Z.Z., Darien, CT

A: The terms DPA and DUPA were first described by O’tar Norwood in his seminal 1975 publication: Male Pattern Baldness: Classification and Incidence. ((Norwood OT. Male pattern baldness: classification and incidence. So. Med. J 1975;68:1359-1365. Download)) In the paper, Dr. Norwood defined the two terms as:

Diffuse, Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA). In this type there is a general decrease in the density of hair without any definite pattern, although it is usually more marked over the top and front. This type is common in women.

Diffuse, Patterned Alopecia (DPA). The patterns in this type of hair loss are essentially the same as in more common male pattern baldness, but the areas involved do not become totally bald; the hair only decreases in density. This also occurs in women.

Dr. Norwood’s realization that all hair loss did NOT follow his own Norwood patterns was a great insight, as well as his observation that DUPA was a common pattern in women and uncommon in men. The terms went relatively unnoticed and were not seen again in the medical literature until Drs. Bernstein and Rassman wrote about them again when they were developing Follicular Unit Transplantation. ((Bernstein RM, Rassman WR: Follicular Transplantation: Patient Evaluation and Surgical Planning. Dermatol Surg 1997; 23: 771-84. Download)) The importance of identifying these conditions is that that DUPA (either in men or women) is a relative contra-indication for hair transplantation and, with densitometry, can be readily detected in individuals at a relatively young age. Patients with DPA can be transplanted as if they were early Norwood Class 6’s.

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Q: Can stress produce diffuse unpatterned hair loss (DUPA), or was it bound to happen anyway? — D.D., Park Slope, Brooklyn

A: Both DPA (diffuse patterned hair loss) and DUPA (diffuse unpatterned hair loss) are genetic conditions, unrelated to stress and would have happened anyway. These types of hair loss are characterized by a high percentage of mininiaturized hair in broad areas of the scalp. See the Classification of Hair Loss in Men and Classification of Hair Loss in Women pages on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website for more information on this topic.

In contrast, stress generally presents as increased hair shedding, a reversible condition referred to as telogen effluvium. It is called this because the normal growing hair is shifted to a resting (telogen) phase before it temporarily falls out. Increased miniaturization is not associated with telogen effluvium.

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Q: I am 26 and I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA) and realize I am not a candidate for hair transplants. I have been on Propecia for about 9 months. There have been periods of increased shedding throughout and I am still shedding what seem to be mostly very fine, miniaturized hairs. Do you think this is the Propecia speeding up the hair cycle and pushing out the old fine hairs, or do you think this is an increase in the pace of my genetic balding? I know that your post states that the accelerated hair loss generally stops by the 6th month. Does DUPA have any effect on the timeframe? Also, I have read that Propecia is only effective for about 50% of patients with DUPA. Do you find that to be true, or have you found a different experience? — T.T., White Plains, N.Y.

A: It is hard to tell at 9 months whether it is shedding from the finasteride or that the medication is just not working. Since there is no way to tell, I would stay on the medication for 2 years for any possible shedding from the medication to have passed and to see if your hair loss actually stops.

Since the natural history of DUPA is so unpredictable, I would give it the full two years rather than the 1-year trial the company recommends. There is no real scientific data to support this recommendation, however.

Please take heart in the fact that people with DUPA often look great (even without any hair transplants) if they keep their hair very short, since they never develop that cosmetically unappealing wreath of hair around the back and sides that is normally associated with extensive balding.

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Q: My hair loss resembles the grade I female hair loss scale, but none of the male hair loss patterns. It has been relatively stable for the past five years and only recently has it begun to progress further. I began both Propecia and Rogaine two months ago, but the hair loss still continues at the same pace. I’m really worried. Does a hair transplant work in such a diffuse hair loss? — D.D., Park Slope, Brooklyn

A: If your hair loss is diffuse only on top, then a hair transplant will be effective. This condition is called Diffuse Patterned Alopecia or DPA.

If the diffuse pattern of hair loss affects the back and sides as well, then surgical hair restoration should be avoided. In this case (called Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia or DUPA) the donor area is not permanent and the transplanted hair will continue to thin over time.

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Q: I underwent hair transplant surgery several years ago and was pleased with the results. However, over the last 2-3 years I’ve lost hair in the donor area with subsequent loss of hair in the transplanted area. Is this type of hair loss especially difficult to treat? What accounts for hair loss from the back of the head that is typically considered “permanent”? — F.D., Laude, Missouri

A: Less than 5% of patients have unstable donor areas, i.e. where the back and sides thin along with the front and top. We call this condition Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia or DUPA. It is best to identify this condition before hair transplant surgery is contemplated as people with DUPA are not good candidates for hair transplantation. The diagnosis is made using densitometry by noting high degrees of miniaturized hair in the donor area.

At this point, I would use medications such as finasteride. I would not do further hair restoration surgery.

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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.

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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.

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Q: I am 19 years old and seem to be thinning all over, including the sides. My father has all of his hair but my grandfather is totally bald. Should I have a hair transplant now or wait until I am older? — T.K., Garden City, NY

A: Most likely you have a type of androgenetic alopecia called Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA). In this hereditary condition, hair thins all over rather than just on the front, top and back as in the more common male pattern baldness. The fact that the back and sides of your scalp are thinning (the donor area) precludes you from being a candidate for surgery. The diagnosis can be made by observing a high degree of miniaturization (fine hair) in the donor area under a magnifier. This instrument is called a densitometer.

For further information, please read the article:

Bernstein RM, Rassman WR: Follicular Transplantation: Patient Evaluation and Surgical Planning, published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery in 1997. Specifically, read the last part of the article.

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