Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUE, represents one way to treat hair loss conditions, and differs from other forms of hair transplantation. Hair loss can be caused by everything from the diffuse thinning effects of androgenetic alopecia through to trichotillomania, or compulsive picking, and more standard male pattern balding. Women can also experience hair loss as the result of conditions such as telogen effluvium and hormonal changes from stress or pregnancy. Always stressful and damaging to the individual, hair loss can be treated through FUE in safe and effective ways. Some important provisional distinctions can be made between FUE and other types of hair transplantation.
Prior to FUE’s introduction in the early 2000s, the most common method of transplanting hair was strip harvesting, whereby a strip of hair is removed and transplanted to the affected area. While successful, this technique can result in scarring, and is better for covering larger amounts of hair loss. It can also sometimes result in a plug like look for new hair that makes it look artificial.
FUE developed out of new, ultra fine needles that could be used to remove follicular units in smaller batches from a donor area of hair into areas affected by hair loss. The follicular units are removed in batches of 1-4 hairs or multi follicular grafts of 2-6 hairs using blunt and sharp punches to avoid causing damage to the scalp. Unlike strip harvesting, which tends to involve a strip of follicular units being dissected and transplanted, FUE involves 500-600 grafts per procedure, and is much more fine grained in transplantation. Patients may consequently require multiple procedures to deal with frontal, mid-scalp and vertex, or crown area transplants.
Key Benefits of FUE
FUE is safe and quick to complete, with patients only receiving a mild anaesthetic during the procedure. Patients can also leave as out patients on the same day as the procedure, and can expect to see results within a few days. As FUE is less invasive in terms of extracting follicular units from the scalp than strip harvesting, it tends to produce little or no scarring.
One of the related benefits of this approach is that patients can still choose to shave their heads or wear a very short hairstyle. This option is not always available with strip harvesting, which can produce a long scar on the scalp. In addition, the small units extracted and transplanted by FUE enable it to be used to treat more specific areas of hair loss such as hairline replacements, and eyebrows and mustaches. As a result, FUE is recommended for patients who are in the early stages of hair loss.
Potential Side Effects and Complications
The side effects from FUE are very low, but there are a few issues that could result from the procedure. Some damage could be caused by extraction and the quality of particular grafts, although this is rare. In addition, FUE is generally the most expensive option for hair transplantation, and is not yet widely available outside of a few key clinics. Due to the high number of procedures needed in comparison to strip mining, it will also take longer. Moreover, and as with any hair transplantation procedures, there may be later problems with further hair loss causing unusual patterns. These problems can be solved with further transplant surgery.