Hair Metrics Analysis: Hair Restoration Surgery

Related terms: hair transplants, follicular unit extraction or FUE, follicular unit strip surgery or FUSS, plugs

Surgical methods to correct hair loss have evolved greatly over the past several decades resulting in more coverage and less scarring, but physicians still differ in their techniques and success. The basic approach to hair transplantation is simple: harvest hair follicles from one location and place them in another. In “strip harvesting,” a strip of skin from a thick hair section is removed, the gap is closed with stitches, and follicles are removed from the strip and transplanted into the balding area.

Conversely, in follicular unit extraction (FUE), hair follicle units are removed one at a time from thicker hair areas and inserted into thinner hair areas. Both approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses and differ in procedure length, cost, effectiveness, and recovery time. FUE can also been done with robotic devices, which typically increases the cost but may not always be appropriate or more effective.

Either way, the procedure usually takes hours, and may require multiple appointments. A single hair graft (set of follicles to be transplanted) will cost around $5 to $10, and the number of grafts you may require could range from 800 if you are only slightly thinning to over 4,500 if you are completely bald up top.

Our Take…

There is a lot to say here but we’ll keep it short. The cost alone will be prohibitive for many, running into the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars depending on your degree of hair loss. Patients will also have to cope with the temporary hair loss that occurs after the surgery when all the new hairs fall out, the 1-2 week recovery time and wound care, potential scarring, and the fact that scabs from the follicular unit transplantation itself can kill the new hair follicles.

Beyond these standard compromises, the procedure involves great skill and creativity not only to implant the follicles successfully, but arrange them in an artful way so that they appear natural and blend with your hair style. Horror stories abound online from unsuspecting patients dissatisfied with their new hair “style.”

We should also add that you will not end up with that thick head of hair from your youth. At best, your hair will look less thin, and the less hair you had prior to the transplant, the less coverage you will have afterwards. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hair restoration surgery is still a temporary solution. Assuming the follicles survive the trauma of being relocated, the transplanted hair will only have a lifespan equivalent to its original one. So, after thousands of dollars you’re still on borrowed time. Oh, and your surgeon may still recommend using an additional hair loss treatment such as minoxidil.

Listen. We understand the desire to have your own hair back where it belongs, making you look how you feel you should. But, there are other methods to make you look as good if not better for less cost, time and risk. Those methods may not involve replacing your lost hair, but they can work with your current hair to give you the same appearance you desire.

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