Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Donor Area Closure
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Q: I have read that some doctors perform something called a trichophytic closure. What is this? — M.S. ~ Thornwood, N.Y.

A: Trichophytic closure is a way to minimize the appearance of the donor scar in a hair transplant using a strip incision. The technique provides improved camouflage of a linear donor scar in Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). Normally, in FUT, the surrounding hair easily covers the scar. For some patients with very short hairstyles, the resulting donor scar may be visible. With the trichophytic closure technique, Dr. Bernstein trims one of the wound edges (upper or lower), allowing the edges to overlap each other and the hair to grow directly through the donor scar. This can improve the appearance of the donor area in patients who wear their hair very short.

The trichophytic donor closure can be used on patients who have had previous hair transplant procedures and are looking for improvement in the camouflage of their donor scar. It is particularly useful in hair transplant repair or corrective work. Trichophytic closures work best with sutured incisions. Stapled closures have their own advantages. The doctor will recommend which type is best in your case.

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Q: I’ve heard that healing after a hair transplant requires stitches. How long will they stay in? — S.R., Cresskill, N.J.

A: In a Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), the surgeon removes a thin strip of scalp from the patient’s donor area that supplies the follicular unit grafts for the hair transplant. After the strip is removed we use either sutures (stitches) or staples to close the wound.

We now close most wounds in the donor area with staples, rather than sutures, because we have found that staples cause less injury to the remaining hair follicles compared to sutures; therefore, more hair will be available for future hair restoration sessions. For more about sutures vs. staples, see Why We Changed from Sutures to Staples in FUT Hair Transplants.

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Q: I have seen through forums that a hair transplant gives severe shock loss in the donor zone (especially behind ears) after the surgery. Doctors say it is temporary and can last about six months or more. Frankly, do you believe in this? Will the donor shocked hair recover? — M.D., Darien, C.T.

A: It depends if you are speaking about follicular unit hair transplantation using strip harvesting (FUT) or Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). With FUT, it is extremely uncommon to have any shock hair loss in the donor area. This could occur if the hair transplant procedure was done improperly, i.e. the donor area was closed too tightly. In this case, some hair loss may be permanent. This is one of the reasons that very large hair transplant sessions are unwise. Shock hair loss in FUE is more common, but is generally not significant and should eventually recover completely.

That said, some shock hair loss in the recipient area is quite common with either hair restoration procedure (FUT or FUE). This is particularly the case if there is a lot of existing miniaturized hair (hair that is starting to thin) in the transplanted area.

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Q: While I was lying awake last night your approach of making sites the day before implantation came to mind. It takes guts to have spearheaded that! I am not aware that that precedent has been set in hair transplant surgery. I would have been timid about infection; it’s a lot like closing a wound with a foreign body in it the next day. As with most things, I am a little slow to jump on board something new so I’m glad you’ve paved the way. Do you have any hesitance about this or do you have enough experience that you no longer hesitate? I would be concerned that variations of the local flora might make a difference and that, accordingly, a large sample size would be necessary to get comfortable. Glad for all of us that you are still blazing trails. — S.S., Shanghai, China

A: Thanks for your kind words. No hesitancy whatsoever. We find no increased risk. Think of it as if you did a hair transplant and ran out of grafts. The remaining sites don’t get infected, they just close up. In the process, all those chemotactic factors involved in the healing process move toward the wounds, so if a graft is placed into them, they would be less likely to get infected than a graft placed into a fresh (non-primed) wound, not more. It is like applying the surgical dressing Duoderm to a wound that helps it auto-sterilize. Putting the speculative science aside, we have not seen one single issue with it. Give it a try with an FUE or FUT procedure. Make the sites, have the patient takes his normal shower that night and you will be pleasantly surprised how little bleeding there is the next day and how easy it is to place the grafts.

Read a summary of the article on pre-making recipient sites

Read the full article as it was published in the Hair Transplant Forum International

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CBS News Report On Robotic FUE Features Dr. BernsteinDr. Bernstein was featured in a CBS News report on robotic hair transplantation. During Dr. Max Gomez’s visit to the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration, Dr. Bernstein discusses with Dr. Gomez the difference between FUT and FUE hair transplants, how the robotic system works, and the benefits of extracting hair follicles using robotic FUE rather than by traditional hand-held methods.

Read a transcript of the piece:

CBS 2 News Anchor Chris Wragge: These days we’ve seen robots doing everything from vacuuming our floors to building cars. You may have even had surgery done with the help of a robot. But what about something personal and cosmetic like a hair transplant? Our Dr. Max Gomez tells us about a robot doing just that.

Dr. Max Gomez: Well that’s right Chris. Now first we should make clear that robots in medicine don’t act alone, at least not yet. They’re always under the direction of a doctor. Now, that said, what robots are really good at are tedious, repetitive tasks that need to be done quickly and accurately. Something like a hair transplant.

Dr. Gomez: A full head of hair is called a person’s “crowning glory”. Sure, going bald is a common fashion statement, but most people are like Sam.

Sam, Hair Transplant Patient: I wanted more hair on my head, obviously, and I didn’t want to be bothered with any of the other treatments that are available.

Dr. Gomez: For Sam that meant a hair transplant, where donor hair follicles are taken from the back of the head and transplanted to the thinning areas, usually on top or the former hairline.

Dr. Robert M. Bernstein: The hair on the back and sides of the scalp are not effected by the same genetic process that the hair on the top of the scalp is.

Dr. Gomez: That donor hair is typically taken from a strip of scalp that is cut out and then sutured closed, but that’s not the best choice for everyone.

Dr. Bernstein: Some patients, who want to wear their hair very short, that line can be a problem. Also, there are some people who are at risk of having a wider scar.

Dr. Gomez: The solution is to randomly extract individual follicular units, small groups of one to four hairs.

Dr. Bernstein: The procedure is very labor intensive and you have to do thousands of these in a single session.

Dr. Gomez: Enter the ARTAS robot. It’s a sophisticated hair mapping and extraction system. Once the donor area is identified, the robot maps all of the follicles, and then randomly extracts them with a series of punches. It can even tell the angle the hair is growing at to avoid damaging it.

Dr. Bernstein: It is much more precise than the human hand. It doesn’t tire if you’re doing thousands of grafts. It’s the same every single time.

Dr. Gomez: And here’s the result a few weeks later. Even with short hair, the random extraction means it’s virtually impossible to tell where the donor hairs came from.

Now, the rest of the transplant procedure is pretty much the same as without the robot. That’s where the art comes in. Deciding where, how many, how dense, and at what angle the donor hairs are inserted, that’s what makes a hair transplant look natural. And a well-done transplant is amazingly natural.

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Q: I hear you leave staples in sometimes up to three weeks after a hair transplant. Why do you leave staples in that long? – M.C., Boca Raton, FL

A: My reason for leaving some staples in longer is that the tensile strength of the wound continues to increase (significantly) during the first three week period after surgery — actually, it will continue to gain strength for up to one year post-op. To give the wound the best chance to heal, on average, I take out alternating staples at 10 days and the remaining staples at 20 days.

Although patients do complain that they are uncomfortable, removing half at 10 days offers enough relief for those who are bothered by them. The advantage of leaving the staples in longer is that the wound heals with a finer scar. And for patients who are very active, it allows them to resume activities more quickly. For each patient, I modify the time left in by surgery, length of incision, tension, and also the patient’s needs and ability to have them removed.

In contrast to sutures, staples do not leave any track marks and do not need to be removed as quickly. Sutures can also damage the surrounding hair by strangulating the follicles. Staples are interrupted (placed individually), so they don’t cause damage to the follicles adjacent to the wound edge.

Read more details about our use of surgical staples on the Donor Area page.

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Q: I would like to have the donor area from an old hair transplant repaired so it does not show the scar when I cut my hair shorter. What are my options?

A: Widened scars can be improved in two ways: they can be re-excised to make the scar finer, or hair can be placed into the scar to make it less visible.

Excising a scar works best when the original incision was closed with poor surgical techniques. In this case, using better closure methods can improve the scar. When the scar is the result of a person being a naturally “poor healer,” a wide scar will be the result – regardless of how the incision was closed.

I often approach the problem by excising a small area first, to see if I can decrease the width of the scar. If so, I would then proceed to excise the rest of the scar. If not, I would obtain hair using follicular unit extraction (FUE) — extracting hair in follicular units directly form the scalp — and place this hair into the scar. The hair placed in the scar can also be obtained from the edges of a partially excised scar.

If a wide scar that is thickened (called a hypertrophic scar) is also excised, it will usually reoccur and may result in an even worse scar. Because of this, thick scars should be flattened with injections of cortisone prior to removing. This will decrease the chance of a recurrence.

Flattening the scar is also important to permit the growth of newly transplanted follicular unit grafts.

For more on this topic, please see the page on Fixing Scars.

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Q: I recall that you wrote an article about Monocryl for the donor closure in hair transplants. Why are you now using staples? — R.S., Park Slope, NY

A: I have been using staples in almost all of our follicular unit hair transplants since the beginning of 2006. When we published the Sutures vs. Staples study in 2001, some doctors were still not convinced. Because of this I continued to look at the issue, not in a bilaterally controlled experiment, but just looking at my cases done with the 5-0 Monocryl and those with staples that I continued to use from time to time. After doing hundreds of additional cases, I was still convinced that, overall, the suture line looked better with the 5-0 Monocryl sutures than with the staples.

However, it occurred to me that perhaps we were looking at the wrong thing. I began to think that perhaps we should be looking at hair preservation, rather than cosmesis alone.

The problem with the appearance of stapled closures is that it results in a very well demarcated, geometric line. Monocryl sutures, on the other hand, results in a much softer, more smudgy line – the characteristic that made it look better in the study.

This effect is produced by two things. The first is that the very fine 5-0 Monocryl sutures placed very close to the wound edges allow perfect wound edge approximation. However, the running suture actually destroys some hair as it makes its spiral course through the skin, destroying some hair and producing this smudgy appearance. We had felt that suturing very close to the would edge, using fine suture caliber 5-0 Monocryl, advancing the running stitch on the surface rather than in the SC space, and the mechanism of action of Monocryl absorption (via hydrolysis rather than by an inflammatory reaction) would all mitigate against any hair loss – but there was still some. It seemed that although the overall look was better with sutures, it might be at the expense of some hair loss.

To test this, I began to look at the hair yields in the donor strips of second hair transplant procedures where the new harvest completely encompassed the old scar. It seemed, at least anecdotally, that the strip containing an old incision that had been sutured closed contained slightly less hair than that from one that was stapled closed, even if the former looked better. Although I did not do a rigorous study, this was my “sense.”

In addition, I realized that staples could be left in the scalp for 3 weeks after a hair transplant without causing excessive inflammation (patient discomfort not withstanding) and this gave me more flexibility in using staples in patients with slightly tight scalps without having to rely on subcutaneous sutures. I began to take out alternate staples at 7 to 10 days and the remaining staples at 18-21 days post-op.

With the issue of hair preservation, rather than just the cosmetic benefit, as the main goal and with the added flexibility of being able to leave in alternate staples for up to 3 weeks, I started using staples routinely in almost all of our hair transplants.

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Q: Could you tell me in case there is an infection at the donor area following a hair transplant, will it prevent the hair to grow after healing if the donor area closed by Trichophytic Closure? What are the problems which may the infection cause? — S.S., Park Slope, NY

A: Infection may cause the donor incision to heal more slowly or with a widened scar after a hair transplant. It may affect any closure, Trichophytic or not.

The risk of infection after a hair restoration procedure is made worse by a tight closure, but not necessarily a Trichophytic closure, unless too much skin was removed at the edges leaving the dermis (deeper part of the skin) exposed.

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Q: I understand that even if you have multiple hair transplants you will only be left with one scar in the donor area. — T.J., Yonkers, N.Y.

A: If the closure is performed without tension, each procedure should result in the same fine scar.

The best-placed incision is in the mid-portion of the permanent donor area. Since there is only one mid-point, there is one best position for the scar. All incisions should lie on this plane leaving one scar.

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Q: I’ll be traveling from New York to Cincinnati the week after my hair transplant. Will I be able to get through airport security if I have staples? — D.B. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A: Yes. Although the staples that we use to close the donor area after hair transplant or restoration procedures are made of stainless steel, they are too small to be picked up by metal detectors.

I generally prefer staples, as they are superior to sutures in preserving donor hair.

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