Did you know as many as 85% of all men will experience hair loss or thinning before the age of 50? Studies also show that around 40% of all women will experience some form of hair loss before the age of 40, as well.
Most of us take our locks for granted – that is until they’re gone. Even though hair loss is common, and some embrace their baldness, nobody chooses to experience it. When people lose their hair, it can dramatically impact their lives, including their relationships, careers, and self-confidence. What many may not realize is that they have options to treat, replace, and restore their hair, no matter how much they’ve lost. One of those options is a hair transplant procedure.
Surgical hair transplantation** involves harvesting healthy hair follicles and transplanting them to another area where the follicles are no longer viable. A “graft” is the standard term for a strip of skin containing hair. Grafts can be taken from anywhere on the body, but they are typically selected from the occipital scalp (the donor zone, found on the posterior scalp) due to the high sustainability of that region. Technology, tools, and surgical approaches determine the size and shape of the graft. Hair grafts are formed by removing tissue from the donor site. The objective is to remove a small amount of tissue that can grow hair and transplant it to an area of the scalp that can’t. The tissue containing hair can be removed from the donor area either in a strip all at once (Follicular Unit Transplantation, FUT) or in individual units one at a time (Follicular Unit Extraction, FUE).
With FUT, grafts are harvested from the donor strip using stereoscopic dissecting microscopes. These follicular units are conserved and primed for insertion into the recipient scalp. There are typically 2-3 hairs in the follicular unit. The physician makes incisions into the scalp that are the same dimensions as the graft. The grafts are then placed one by one into each recipient site at the appropriate length and direction, to imitate the surrounding hair.
With FUE, it is not necessary to remove a donor strip. Instead, the follicular units are individually extracted from the scalp. The follicular units are then preserved and transplanted into the scalp.
The hair grafts must survive hair transplant surgery. Unfortunately, many factors can prevent this.
- Dehydration: According to several studies, grafts can survive around 16-minutes in a dry environment before they die. It helps to store them in a liquid solution like saline.
- Temperature: Keeping the follicular units chilled will help prevent damage.
- Oxygen: When the follicular units are separated from the donor zone, they are deprived of oxygen, and when that happens for too long, they will no longer function properly.