Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Norwood Hair Loss Classification
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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: It’s a question that greatly concerns me because I’m investigating getting a transplant sometime next year. I’m 28 and thought I started balding at 26, but photographic evidence suggests it had started somewhere around age 24. I’m roughly a Class 2 now, and thanks to finasteride, I’ve stayed almost exactly where I was at 26 with some improvement (not really cosmetically significant though). However, I am convinced I have some crown and top of the scalp thinning too, but not to a visible degree.

These people getting these miraculous jobs from Canada – it is a trick, right? They can’t honestly expect to be able to get away with what they’ve done over the course of their entire lives, can they? — L.M., Great Falls, V.A.

A: I think you have better insights into hair loss than many hair transplant surgeons. Patient ABI was the “rare” patient who seems to be a stable Class 3. I made that judgment due to: almost no miniaturization at the border of his Class 3 recession, no crown miniaturization, and his unusual family history. He had several older family members who stayed at Class 3 their whole lives.

Since we only have about 6,000 movable follicular units on average in our donor area, placing 3,000 at the hairline is obviously a joke and/or the doctor is playing “Russian Roulette” with the patient’s future.

As you point out, in most patients the hair loss will progress and the person will be out of luck. It is similar to the way flap patients were stuck without additional donor hair as their hair loss progressed. An additional problem was that the flaps were low on the forehead and very dense. The situation is analogous to placing 100 grafts per sq cm2 to create a low, broad hairline in a young person.

If you do the math you can see how ridiculous this tactic is. A person’s original density is only 90-100 follicular units cm2. Patient with Class 6 hair loss lose hair over an area of about 300 cm2.

This consists of:

  • 50cm2 in the front (including a 15cm2 hairline)
  • 150 cm2 for the mid-scalp
  • 100 cm2 for the crown

Therefore, 6000 FUs transplanted to this area = 6000/300 = 20 FU per cm2. This is the number we often work with. We put up to 50cm2 at the very most in the mid-frontal forelock area and then proportionately less in other areas.

However, if you put 3,000 FUs at the hairline, in a density of 100/cm2, then you have covered only 30cm. This leaves only 3,000 FUs for the remaining 270cm2 of balding scalp for a density of a little over 11 FU/cm2.

Now, transplanting 11FU cm2 over the back part of the scalp is not a disaster EXCEPT if the front was transplanted at 100 per cm2. In this situation (as you have accurately pointed out) the patient will look very, very front heavy, with an aggressively placed, dense, broad, hairline and little hair to support it towards the back.

The gamble is that the patient’s baldness doesn’t progress, that finasteride or dutasteride can halt the process if it does progress, or that hair cloning methods will be available to save the day.

In my opinion, elective surgery should not be performed when its success depends upon these uncertainties – and particularly since a cosmetically disfiguring hair transplant can be so debilitating (and avoidable).

The reality is that doctors who claim to perform these procedures may not even be performing follicular unit transplantation. In FUT, the surgeon transplants naturally occurring intact FUs of 1-4 hairs. The extreme dense packing techniques preclude the use of 4- and sometimes even 3-hair grafts. What happens is that the larger FU are spit up. This doubles the graft counts (and the cost to the patient) without giving the patient any more hair. It also increases the risk of follicular damage and poor growth.

Patients in whom 10,000 follicular units are available to transplant are very rare and when they are shown on the internet, should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule.

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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. — N.S., Garden City, N.Y.

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.

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Q: My son, 25 years old, is seeing hair loss around the hairline. According to your website, he is probably a stage II. He may have a little hair loss at the vertex; right now it is hard to tell. He is very muscular and loves weight lifting, but no drug enhancement. Is there a relationship between weight lifting and hair loss, since I have read that weight lifting increases testosterone levels? — G.S., Pleasantville, NY

A: Yes, weight lifting does increase testosterone, which in turn increases DHT. This can accelerate hair loss, although the effect is generally very slight.

Rather than modify his exercise program, your son may want to consider taking finasteride (Propecia). This requires a doctor’s prescription.

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Q: I am 26 years old, have had two successful hair transplants, but am still losing hair in the crown area. The doctor I have worked with told me that he does not do crown work on anyone until they are at least 40 (due to lack of donor area). I have very thick hair and the transplanted area looks as if nothing was lost. Would you do work on someone my age in their crown area if they have enough donor hair? — A.W., Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Although I am hesitant to start with the crown when transplanting a younger person, if you have good coverage on the front and top of your scalp from the first two sessions then extending the hair transplant into your crown may be reasonable. It depends upon your remaining donor supply and an assessment of how bald you will become. I would need to examine you.

If it is likely that you will progress only to a Norwood Class 6, then transplanting your crown can be considered. If you will progress to a Class 7 then you should not since, in the long term, hair that was placed in the crown might be better used for other purposes, such as connecting the transplanted top to receding sides.

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Q: I am in my early 20’s and I was told my hair loss pattern is a Norwood Class 6, on its way to becoming a Class 7. My hair is brown in color and medium to coarse and I was told I have high density in my donor area. Although I was told I could have hair transplants, do you think that I should based upon what I have told you? — D.W., Pleasantville, N.Y.

A: The main concern I would have is that when someone is already a Class 6 by their early 20’s, he may eventually be left with only a very thin see-through fringe as he ages. A high donor density now does not ensure that this will not occur – and coarse donor hair at age 22 does not ensure that it will not become fine over time. In fact, there is a significant chance that it will.

Since the hair restoration would require one or more large sessions, there is a risk that the donor scar(s) will not be hidden over time. If you had a widened linear donor scar from an FUE-strip procedure, you would need to grow your hair longer on the back and sides to cover it (if that is even possible). And this look of longer hair on the back and sides would not be a good one for a young person, especially if there was not enough donor hair to fill in the crown.

On the other hand, large FUE sessions leave a very wide band of small round scars in the back and sides of the scalp that can become visible if the anticipated permanent donor zone was not truly permanent and narrowed over time.

When we are younger, our decisions are often more emotion-based and impulsive. When one is older, and our tastes change, we may change our mind about having had surgical hair restoration, but the hair transplant, once performed, is not reversible.

Read about the Candidacy for a Hair Transplant

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Q: I believe I am an “early” IIIA or IVA. I am not losing any hair on the back of the scalp. There is no substantial hereditary hair loss on either side of the family, but I began taking Propecia four months ago and recently noticed a dramatic thinning of hair on the top (front) of the scalp, extending back to the rear of the head. — B.M., Lower East Side, N.Y.

A: Often people experience some shedding the first six months on finasteride as the new hair essentially pushes out some of the old. I would wait a full year before making any judgments about a hair transplant since you may see significant regrowth from finasteride in the second six months and may not need surgery at this point, particularly if the hair loss is early.

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Q: I know that I can’t get all of my hair back, but what can I realistically expect from the best hair transplants? — S.A., Santa Monica, C.A.

A: You can expect the follicular unit hair transplant procedure to be perfectly natural, that the hair restoration will be completed in one or two sessions and you should anticipate a quick and easy post-op course.

The amount of coverage and density will depend upon your Norwood (balding) class, your donor reserves and your hair characteristics.

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Q: Dear Dr. Bernstein, a full head of hair averages ~100 FU/cm2. To achieve the appearance of fullness with a hair transplant 50% is required. In one of your articles you say that you recommend 25 FU / cm2 to your patients. Is that the density per one session or the final one? If that is final density, then it is far below the 50%. Please explain as I am profoundly confused. — W.N., Easton, C.T.

A: If a person is to become a Norwood Class 6, the hair that we have available for us to transplant is only about 12% of what was there originally. This, of course, will vary from patient to patient depending upon one’s donor density and scalp laxity and a host of other factors.

We make the hair restoration look good by restoring 25-50% in the front, and proportionately less in the back. Logically one cannot restore 1/2 of ones original density to an entire bald scalp with only a thin strip of donor hair – there is just not enough hair, even with multiple sessions.

I transplant 25-35 FU/mm2 in one session, but this is the density created in the front, not overall.

Due to follicular unit graft sorting (placing the larger follicular units in the forelock area) this provides even more density than the actual numbers suggest. If someone is relatively certain to have more limited hair loss, then the numbers can be increased, but it is risky if you underestimate the degree of eventual hair loss.

Please carefully read the article on Hair Transplant Aesthetics.

It will answer your excellent question in greater detail. The article is a bit old, but the principles are the same.

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Q: I am Norwood Class 6 and have read about both Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). Which will give me more hair? — D.D., Highland Park, T.X.

A: In general, FUT will give you more hair since, in FUT, the best hair from the mid-portion of the permanent zone of the scalp (also called the “sweet spot”) can be utilized in the hair transplant.

With FUE, since only the hair follicles are extracted and not the surrounding bald skin, if too much hair is removed, the donor area will begin to look thin as hair is removed. This will limit the amount of hair that can be harvested.

Although in FUE additional areas of the scalp can be utilized to some degree, this will generally not compensate for the inability to access all of the hair in the mid-permanent zone and the total amount available for the hair restoration will be less.

Read about Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)

Read about Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

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Q: I am 28 years old and was told that I have early Norwood Class 3 hair loss. I want to have a hair transplant but my doctor told me to use Propecia for 6 months and then come back to discuss surgery. I don’t want to wait that long, what should I do? — L.B., Oyster Bay Cove, NY

A: Actually, you should wait a full year. If you are an Early Norwood Class 3, the Propecia can work so well (in actually growing hair back) that you may not even need a hair transplant. The important point is that Propecia only starts working at 3-6 months and during this time there may actually be some shedding as the new growing hair literally pushes out the old.

A hair transplant performed at 6 months may not only be unnecessary, but growth from the medication may be attributed to the hair restoration surgery. I suggest to wait and see what the medication can do before going for hair restoration surgery.

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Q: I am 27 years old and have a Class 3 degree of hair loss. Should I do a hair transplant or consider non-surgical methods of hair restoration? — Y.B., Lake Forest Illinois

A: At age 27 with early hair loss, you should consider non-surgical options first.

Propecia is the most important medication, but you need to be on it for one year at the full dose of 1mg a day to assess its benefits.

If you have done this and other parameters are OK for a hair transplant, such as adequate donor hair density and scalp laxity and you have little evidence that you will become extensively bald (i.e. no donor miniaturization and no family history of extensive baldness), then hair transplantation can be considered.

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Q: I’m currently 24 years old. Ever since turning 20, my hair on top began to thin little by little. I have noticeable thinning on the top part of my scalp and on my crown, but have no recession at the temples. My hairline looks amazingly young and hair on the donor areas seems quite thick. Am I in the early stages of male patterned baldness? I cannot place myself in the Norwood scale since my thinning doesn’t seem to follow the classic pattern. I just started on Propecia. Should I be considering a hair transplant? — B.R., Landover, MD

A: From the description, it sounds like you have typical Diffuse Patterned Hair Loss or Diffuse Patterned Alopecia (DPA). In this condition, the top of the scalp thins evenly, the donor area remains stable, and the hairline is preserved for a considerable period of time. Please see: Classification of Hair Loss in Men for more information.

Propecia would be the best treatment at the outset. When the hair loss becomes more significant, patients with DPA are generally good candidates for surgical hair restoration. It is important, however, that your donor area is checked for miniaturization to be sure that it is stable before a hair transplant is considered.

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come - O'tar NorwoodThe following is a portion of “An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” an editorial written by O’Tar T. Norwood, MD — founder of the Norwood Classification System for Hair Loss — and published in the May/June 1997 issue of “Hair Transplant Forum International”:

I just returned from visiting Dr. Bob Bernstein in New York, and was impressed with his operation and even more impressed with his thoughts, observations, and insights into hair transplant surgery. He applies scientific methods to his work, is academically honest, and has an almost eerie instinctive knowledge of hair transplant surgery. Of course he has Dr. Bill Rassman to work with, but it is still remarkable. Dr. Bernstein is best known for introducing follicular transplantation to hair transplant surgery, an idea Bob Limmer has been pushing for ten years with the use of the binocular microscope, but no one would listen to him. Dr. Limmer, however, never used the term follicular transplantation. Using the microscope, you automatically dissect the follicular units. It can’t be avoided if done properly.

To read the full article, visit “An Idea Whose Time Has Come” in the Hair Restoration Papers section of our website.

Reference
Norwood O. “An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” Hair Transplant Forum International 1997; 7(3): 10-11.

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