Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a special process used to grab follicles to relocate when doing a Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) hair loss prevention procedure. An FUE is done by highly skilled surgeons who use techniques and equipment that is constantly evolving and changing.
One advantage to utilizing the FUE method is that it does not leave a noticeable linear scar like other processes do. Because of the lack of scarring associated with FUE, it is an ideal procedure for:
- Patients who traditionally wear their hair short, including those who shave their heads, and those who would not be adverse to having the transplant region shaved
- Any patient who wants to avoid the appearance of a scar or those who scar easily
- Patients who have had previous hair transplants and now experience tightness in the scalp
- Patients who are not experiencing significant hair loss
- Patients who are younger and require a less comprehensive procedure
- A patient who might not be sure about an extensive transplant procedure and wants to try an FUT to see how it works out
- Patients who have hair that is fine to the touch
- Patient who will need to have a graft placed in an area with existing scars
Before getting an FUE done, it is important to first consider the pros and cons of the procedure.
Follicular Unit Extraction Pros and Cons
While FUE sounds like the ideal solution for a wide range of patient types, it actually does have its limitations. This type of procedure is not for every patient, and you need to consider the pros and cons of FUE before you get the procedure done.
Pros of FUE
- Lack of scarring
- Recovery time is much faster
- Reduced amount of pain and general discomfort when the process is complete
- Offers the option of a larger donor space
- Makes the process easier for patients prone to scarring
- Can be used to repair or alter existing scarred areas
- Expands the harvesting area to body and beard hair
- Can be more beneficial to younger patients
- Could be ideal for those who only need a frontal transplant
Cons of FUE
- For a clean procedure, the donor area must be shaved extremely close
- Does not yield as many follicles as other methods
- Pricing tends to be more than other options
- There is the potential for donor area distortion that would make future FUE procedures impossible
- The lack of fatty tissue on the grafts can decrease their survival rate
- Patients needing larger donor areas could see scarring
- The procedure can take up to two days to complete
- The potential exists for buried grafts
- The surgeon may not be able to focus on the artistry angle of your FUT because of the excessive time involved
Follicular Unit Extraction Technique
Because an FUE requires that each follicle be removed individually in preparation for a Follicular Unit Transplant, it can become an extremely tedious process. Instead of dealing with strips of follicles, the surgeon is handling individual groups.
The FUE process uses a 0.8 mm to 1.0 mm surgical incision on the scalp where the follicles are to be removed. In order for the process to be done correctly, the patient’s head is completely shaved in the donor area.
After collecting and properly storing the grafts, the surgeon then prepares the transplant area with an eye towards artistically placing the grafts in ways that will look and feel natural. Then the surgeon meticulously places the grafts in the transplant area to get the desired effect.
One of the benefits of FUE is it gives the surgeon the option of removing individual follicles and placing them in such a way as to enhance the final effect.
Size of FUE Procedures
Because the surgeon has to spend a significant amount of time harvesting grafts during an FUE procedure, the time spent on artistically placing grafts to get an optimum effect is shortened. To maintain the quality of results, FUE procedures are generally either done on very small areas, or they are spread out over two or more days.
- A standard FUE would involve anywhere from 800 to 2,000 grafts that would take approximately 10 hours to process
- An extended period of surgery (one day or more) would be used if the procedure required more than 2,000 grafts
- An experienced surgeon will limit a single session to around 2,500 but no more than 3,000 grafts
- To retain the effect of no scarring in the donor area for an FUE, the general consensus is that no more than 5,000 follicular units should be processed over a period of two to three days