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Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration
Hair Restoration Answers

What is the Difference Between “Hair Transplant Reversal” and “Hair Transplant Repair”?

Q: I have read a lot on the forums about hair transplant reversal and hair transplant repairs. Are they the same thing, if not, what is the difference? Can you reverse a hair transplant? — K.J. ~ Park Slope, N.Y.

A: A “hair transplant repair” refers to techniques that improve the appearance of a poorly executed procedure or one performed with outdated methods. A “hair transplant reversal” refers to techniques that enable the individual to appear as if no hair restoration surgery had been performed. Although the techniques in attempting to perform a repair or a reversal may be similar, the ultimate goals of each are quite different. It is important to understand that although significant improvement can often be achieved; perfect repairs and/or full reversals are generally not possible.

The main reasons for seeking a repair include; large grafts transplanted to the frontal hairline giving an unnatural, “pluggy” appearance, a frontal hairline placed too far forward, hair placed in the wrong direction, and donor and recipient site scarring. Outdated procedures such as scalp reductions and flaps also need to be repaired.

If the transplanted grafts are large (“hair plugs”), it is possible to surgically excise these grafts, microscopically dissect them into smaller follicular unit grafts, and re-transplant them into the scalp in a more natural-looking, aesthetic way. After these large grafts are removed, the sites are sutured closed and heal with very fine, often imperceptible, white scars. Hair plug removal is often followed by one or more sessions of FUT or FUE in order to harvest additional hair for use in camouflaging any remaining plugs or improving the appearance of the region where the plugs had previously been. These combined repairs can lead to excellent outcomes.

If the grafts at the hairline are not large, but are placed too low or too broadly, it is possible to use laser hair removal and/or tweezing to remove these hairs. Repeated treatments may be necessary until the hair ceases to grow back at these locations. Additionally, hair which was placed in a direction different from the way hair naturally grows will usually need to be removed.

Another challenge in hair transplant repair is fixing widened donor scars that had resulted from poorly performed FUT/strip procedures. These scars are permanent and may be visible if the hair is not worn long enough. Scars from FUT procedures can be repaired by harvesting hair from the surrounding donor area (using FUE) and transplanting these follicular unit grafts into the scarred tissue.

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP), a permanent micro-tattoo, may be useful to further camouflage these linear scars. SMP can also be used to improve the look of the stippled scars of FUE in patients. This can occur with over harvesting, when patients wear their hair too short, or when the balding is more extensive than anticipated and extends into the harvested area.

A hair transplant reversal, in theory, has the goal of having the person look as though a hair transplant had never been performed. While a complete reversal is not possible, the techniques previously discussed can be utilized to achieve a number of important things. The donor site scarring can be minimized and/or camouflaged and the smaller follicular unit grafts in the recipient zone can often be removed without leaving behind any visible scarring of the underlying skin. What is not possible is to restore the person’s density to a pre-procedure level as improperly performed transplants always result in wasted hair.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair Transplant “Plugs” be Repaired by Lasers or Electrolysis?

Q: After a bad hair transplant, can you use lasers or electrolysis to remove the transplanted hair? — N.C. ~ Newark, N.J.

A: You can remove the hair in plugs with electrolysis, but it is difficult since the scarring distorts the architecture of the hair shaft and makes it hard to insert the electrolysis needle. Laser hair removal is a far more efficient way of removing the hair, but takes multiple treatments. However, the problem with either of these techniques is that the hair is destroyed and the underlying scarred scalp is not improved. In fact, it is made more visible when the hair has been removed.

Our preferred method of repair is to completely remove the plugs, dissect out the individual follicular units from those plugs and then re-implant them in the proper location and direction. In this way the hair can be reused and the appearance of underlying scarred scalp can be improved, as well as camouflaged with new hair.

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Hair Restoration Answers

In Hair Transplant Repair, Can You Remove Plugs By Follicular Unit Extraction?

Q: I was wondering if it was possible to use Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) on the old plugs instead of graft excision. — N.B. ~ Westport, C.T.

A: Graft excision generally works better than FUE in removing old plugs and mini-grafts. The reason is that, in these grafts, the hair is not aligned due to the scar tissue that tugs on, and bends the hair. Because the hair direction is altered from the scar tissue, there is much more damage when the grafts are removed with the tiny FUE punches. In addition, FUE only removes a very small part of the plug. If the hair in the plug is pointing in the wrong direction or the plug is in the wrong location, the entire graft needs to be removed.

Another benefit of graft excision is that we can remove the underlying scar tissue and improve the appearance of the underlying skin. In FUE, only a tiny bit of the scar tissue is removed and, since FUE holes are left open, FUE actually causes its own scarring. With graft excision, the sites are sutured closed so some scar tissue is removed and the quality of the underlying skin looks more natural.

Read about Hair Plug Removal
Before/After Photos of a Plug Repair Patient

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein Featured Hair Transplant Pioneer In Departures Magazine

Departures - The State of Plastic Surgery 2012The January/February issue of Departures Magazine contains a feature called “The State of Plastic Surgery 2012″. The magazine covers topics such as how to find the best plastic surgeon, the use of stem cells in plastic surgery and the best hair loss therapies.

The section on hair loss offers a timeline of the major advances in the treatment of hair loss since its inception over 75 years ago.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Why Does Vice President Joe Biden’s Hair Transplant Look Unnatural?

Q: There is a famous hair transplant out there, Vice President, Joe Biden. How come it looks so unnatural? — W.S., Los Angeles, CA

A: With Joe Biden’s hair transplant a number of errors were made. Some were unavoidable due to the older technology and some were just poor planning. He had a hair transplant consisting mainly of large plugs because that was the way hair transplants were performed many years ago. But many of those plugs have now been fixed.

The persistent (but avoidable) problem is that Vice President Biden has a low, broad hairline. But when you see a low broad hairline one expects to see the rest of head to be covered with hair. But he didn’t have enough donor hair to accomplish this. With better planning, the hairline would have been more receded at the temples, producing a more natural, balanced look.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What Is Best Way To Remove Hair Plugs: FUE, Electrolysis, Or Graft Excision?

Q: I had a hair transplant in 2004 of mostly plugs. The plugs are in an angle which doesn’t really look natural, far from it. I have lost a lot more hair since I did the hair restoration procedure. I regret ever doing a hair transplant. I prefer to reverse the surgery. I have read a lot about repair work on the net, and I have come to the conclusion that using FUE to take the plugs out, and put them back into the scar might be an option, but it may just make it worse on top. Also I can do electrolysis to remove the plugs, might be better because the possibility of scarring is smaller, and as I already have a lot.

A: If you had plugs, then a graft excision with suturing will generally give a better result than FUE, since a graft excision removes the underling scar tissue as well as the plug. FUE only removes the follicles, but leaves the underlying scar tissue. In addition, the shape of the follicles in scar tissue is often distorted, making extraction difficult and leading to more transaction (damage to follicles).

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Hair Restoration Answers

What Happened with Joe Biden’s “Pluggy” Hair Transplant and What Repair Strategy Do You Suggest?

Q: What’s the story with Joe Biden’s hair? — R.B., Inwood, N.Y.

A: Joe Biden — former Senator from Delaware and now the Vice President of the United States — apparently had a hair transplant many years ago using the older hair restoration techniques. This included not only transplanting hair in large plugs (corn rows), but using them to create a broad frontal hairline; a design that generally does not look natural as a person ages.

Also, the older grafts were transplanted in a vertical orientation giving a sprout-like, unnatural appearance.

The use of large plugs and the inefficiencies of the older procedures waste a considerable amount of donor hair, leaving Senator Biden with a dense rim of hair in the front part of his scalp and little coverage behind that.

The repair strategy would consist of removing the larger plugs, microscopically dividing them into smaller grafts (individual follicular units of 1 to 3 hairs each), and then placing the smaller grafts in a more forward direction and in a more natural distribution. This involves using the 1-hair units to soften the frontal hair line and the 2- and 3-hair units to extend the transplant further back on the scalp.

In addition to the hair transplant repair, Biden received significant cosmetic improvement from the natural graying of his hair over the years, as this tends to make the hair appear fuller and any irregularities less noticeable.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Dermabrasion Repair "Pluggy" Hair Transplant Scars?

Q: Can dermabrasion help eliminate the circular edges of raised plug grafts caused by old hair transplants? Is this similar to the suturing and excision look?

A: Although dermabrasion can flatten elevated edges, it will not eliminate the round, white, circular scars that result from old punch graft hair transplants. The scarring in these procedures goes all the way through the dermis to the fat. Dermabrasion can only go down to the upper part of the dermis without causing further scarring.

Graft excision with suturing removes the plug as well as the underlying scar and eliminates the tell-tale circular marks of the older hair restoration procedures.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein, Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation Get ‘Shameless Plug’ in Gotham Magazine

Bernstein, who founded the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration, has made great headway with what’s called “follicular unit transplantation.” Instead of using single plugs, he works with clusters of hair that continue to grow in natural patterns. The results appear more natural, and his patients need fewer sessions than with the traditional method of hair transplant surgery.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What is Cost of Hair Plug Removal?

Q: I was looking at your prices for repair work and you mentioned that you charge $85 per graft removed. I had a hair transplant and received follicular unit grafts (one-hair follicles) but I think my hair loss is going to continue so I might in the future want to remove them. Am I interpreting your fees correctly, or does this price apply to people who have had the plug like transplants?

A: The fee applies to the removal of plugs and includes graft (plug) excision, suturing of the site, dissection of the plug into individual follicular units and re-implantation.

Generally the best way to reverse a procedure of follicular unit transplantation is with laser hair removal. This is particularly true if the hair restoration was done properly and the underlying skin is normal. Alexandrite and diode lasers are the best for hair removal. Typically, there are too many small grafts in FUT procedures to make excision practical.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein’s Lecture On FUT Hair Transplantation

Dr. Bernstein's Lecture on FUT Hair Transplant SurgeryDr. Bernstein, a renowned teacher, lecturer, and surgeon, is bringing his state-of-the-art hair restoration techniques directly to patients. His lecture on Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) includes a historical review of hair transplant techniques, from the out-dated “hair plugs” and “cornrows” to refined FUT procedures. Watch the lecture to see images of surgical tools, illustrations of surgical techniques, and before and after patient photos.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

New Instrument for Follicular Unit Extraction Introduced By Drs. Bernstein and Rassman

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Instrument

In a new article appearing on the cover of Hair Transplant Forum International, the official publication of The International Society of Hair Transplant Surgeons (ISHRS), pioneering hair transplant surgeon Robert M. Bernstein MD, along with his colleague Dr. William R. Rassman, recently revealed details about a “New Instrumentation for Three-Step Follicular Unit Extraction.”

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Hair Restoration Answers

What Causes Poor Hair Transplant Growth?

Q: Do you ever see poor growth from a hair transplant? — R.L., Edison, NJ

A: The situations where I have encountered poor growth are:

1) When hair is transplanted to areas of skin that has been thickened due to the prior placement of larger grafts or plugs (this is called “hyperfibrotic thickening”). Removal of the larger grafts can somewhat ameliorate this problem.

2) When hair is transplanted into a thickened scar.

3) When a hair transplant is performed into an area of severe chronic sun damage. In this case, a very modest number of grafts should be used in the first session and if these grow well, additional grafts can be added in a subsequent session.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Hair Loss in Women the Topic in Dr. Bernstein ‘Early Show’ Interview

Excerpt from the interview:

Julie Chen: Dr. Bernstein, I want to go through all the options that are available for women, but what is the difference between female and male hair loss option-wise. What can we do to treat it?
Dr. Bernstein: The main difference medically is that women have hair loss often from hormonal changes and it’s due to an imbalance between progesterones and estrogens. That equilibrium can be reestablished with medication. Often birth control pills can do that.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein Debates Large Graft Hair Transplants At 1998 ISHRS Meeting

At the 6th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons held in Washington, D.C. in 1998, Dr. Walter Unger (defending the “old guard”) debated Dr. Bernstein (representing the new technique of Follicular Unit Transplantation) in front of an audience of over 450 hair restoration surgeons from around the world. Dr. Unger took the position that large grafts still had a place in surgical hair restoration, particularly for creating density. Dr. Bernstein took the position that the new procedure of Follicular Unit Transplantation could create that density while at the same time achieving a completely natural look — something large graft procedures were incapable of doing. He argued that the versatility and naturalness of Follicular Unit Transplantation rendered the older procedures obsolete.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Follicular Hair Transplantation Makes Splash After Bernstein Introduces Procedure To American Academy of Dermatology

Cosmetic Surgery Times
Cosmetic Surgery Times - April 1997

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 describes Dr. Bernstein’s introduction of the concept of Follicular Unit Transplantation to the academy as well as the keys to making the technique successful. From the article:

“‘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.

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.”

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