The hair restoration community is buzzing about a procedure known as Follicular Unit Excision or FUE. This hair transplant method has several key advantages over FUT “strip surgery” — the most established procedure for many years.
FUE has not been in the spotlight for very long, but it has made waves in the world of hair restoration, attracting the interest of many doctors and clients.
What does FUE involve, what makes it different from FUT, and what should you know about recovery, cost, and other considerations?
Let this be your complete reference to FUE surgery, where all these questions will be answered in full. If you are interested in seeking FUE or simply curious about the process, read on to find out more.
While FUE is by every measure a complete hair transplant procedure, the real innovation takes place in the extraction, where hair is harvested from the donor area.
Using a special surgical instrument, the surgeon will remove individual follicle units from the area, typically the back of the head near the neck, selecting the strongest and healthiest follicle units that will serve as quality grafts for the recipient area.
These harvested hairs are prepared under a high-powered stereomicroscope by medical technicians who are trained as a team to support the surgeon and facilitate the process.
Since the quality of these donor follicles is crucial to the success of the surgery overall, technicians examine and process each unit to ensure the best, long-lasting results.
When the follicles are approved and prepared, the surgeon will then make a series of small incisions to the recipient area previously designated by the client and the doctor during the consultation.
FUE is often compared to FUT strip surgery, which is the more widely practiced hair transplant method today. While the majority of patients will opt for FUT surgery, FUE has a few key advantages to consider.
Firstly, FUE is far less invasive than traditional strip surgery, dramatically reducing the amount of scarring to the donor area on the back of the head.
While FUT requires a long, horizontal strip of skin to be removed from this area, FUE uses precise instruments – between .7 and .9 mm – to pinpoint and extract the best follicles from a much wider surface area of skin.
For patients who want to keep the back of their head shaved for personal or professional reasons, FUE offers an edge over FUT surgery, which tends to result in noticeable scarring.
The smaller, pin-prick marks left by FUE techniques are barely detectable, even from a close distance. There is also less aftercare required during the recovery process for the small and fast-healing incisions left by FUE surgery.
FUE is also ideal for “touch-up” procedures that involve fewer grafts than a full FUT strip surgery.
Many clients have undergone a long FUT session, then returned years later to have FUE performed, filling in any hair that may have been lost in the meantime.
To determine if a client is a good candidate for FUE, surgeons will look at factors like hair loss history, age, scalp elasticity, hair type, skin tone, and many other factors before reaching a decision.
However, clients who are eager to pursue FUE should keep a few things in mind before bringing up the topic with a hair restoration specialist.
The main critique of FUE is the lower yield of hair harvested from the donor area compared to FUT. For clients that want large quantities of hair transplanted – also known as mega sessions – surgeons will say that FUT is the best method.
There may also be a slightly higher transection rate with FUE, meaning that some follicles from the donor area may be damaged or not properly take root in the recipient area. FUT follicles tend to be stronger, with lower rates of transection and longer-lasting results.
Of course, the technical skill and artistic abilities of the surgeon and the technician team will come into play when undergoing FUE, and results can vary drastically depending on these critical factors.
With that said, do your research and always opt for quality!
If the concept of FUE sounds intriguing, you might want to know what the actual procedure entails from the client’s perspective and what to expect in the recovery process as well.
A client undergoing FUE surgery will be in and out of the clinic in one day – anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the length of the procedure.
At top-tier clinics, the process is simple and stress-free. The client will enter the clinic, finalize the plan with the surgeon and the team, and make themselves comfortable in a chair where they can enjoy music, watch TV, or just relax.
Local anesthetics will be administered to the donor and recipient area, and the surgeon will then begin extracting follicles while the team prepares them for implantation.
For the client, pain is minimal – most report only a minor pulling sensation on the back of the neck as units are harvested. As the surgeon begins to graft new hair into the recipient area, a similar sensation of pressure or tingling may occur.
FUE is a technical procedure, but for the client, the experience is smooth and easy. Clients can take breaks, walk around, have snacks, and speak with the surgeon.
The procedure is over before you know it, and you can make your way home for a full recovery.
No matter the extent or scope of your FUE procedure, it is vitally important that you follow the instructions given to you by your doctor for recovery.
Not only will your scalp and hairline be extremely sensitive at this time, but there may also be some minor discomfort in the donor area as well.
For the first week of recovery, clients are told to stay put at home in a low-stress environment. Neither the donor nor recipient areas should be touched, scratched, picked at, or irritated in any way, even if the urge is strong.
Aftercare protocols must also be followed, whether that includes medications (oral or topical), special shampoos, cleaning regimens, lifestyle recommendations, or anything else.
After two weeks, most of the head will have healed, and clients can begin returning to activities, like exercise and physical hobbies.
While some doctor orders will be strict rules, others will be loose guidelines. Be sure to clarify these things with your doctor and clinic if you must, and stick with the protocol to maximize results.
You may have a follow-up appointment with your doctor or medical technician the day after surgery.
In this meeting, you will go over your recovery and aftercare experience so far, asking any questions and giving feedback from your perspective.
New hair will not be visible at this point, and grafts may fall out before returning – this is perfectly normal. After about a full year of recovery, your new hair will return in full, and you will have a final meeting with your doctor to review the entire experience.
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