Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a modern and minimally invasive surgical procedure used to restore hair growth in individuals experiencing hair loss. The technique involves extracting individual hair follicles from the patient’s scalp and transplanting them to areas where hair growth has been lost or is thinning.
The FUE procedure begins with the patient's scalp being shaved to expose the donor area from where the hair follicles will be harvested. The donor area is typically located at the back and sides of the scalp, where the hair is thicker and genetically resistant to baldness.
Local anaesthesia is then administered to the donor area to minimise discomfort during the extraction process. Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon uses a small instrument called a punch tool to remove individual hair follicles from the scalp. The punch tool is typically between 0.6 mm to 1 mm in diameter and allows for precise extraction of individual follicular units without causing damage to the surrounding tissue.
After the follicles have been extracted, they are stored in a specialised solution to maintain their viability until they are ready to be transplanted. The surgeon then creates small incisions in the recipient area where the hair is to be transplanted. The size and direction of these incisions are carefully planned to ensure that the transplanted hair will grow naturally and blend in with the surrounding hair.
The harvested hair follicles are then transplanted into the recipient area using forceps or a specialised implantation device. The surgeon places the follicles in the incisions made in the recipient area, taking care to ensure that the angle and direction of the hair growth are consistent with the surrounding hair.
After the transplantation is complete, the patient's scalp is cleaned and bandaged, and they are given instructions for postoperative care. Patients can usually return home the same day, and they can typically resume normal activities within a few days after the procedure.
One of the benefits of FUE hair transplants is that there is no linear scar left behind, as there is with traditional strip harvesting techniques. Instead, the tiny incisions made during the procedure typically heal leaving smaller dot scars that are harder to see.
The healing process for FUE hair transplants typically involves three stages: the immediate post-operative period, the first week after surgery, and the long-term healing period.
Immediate Post-Operative Period During the immediate post-operative period, patients may experience some discomfort, swelling, and redness in the donor and recipient areas. These symptoms are normal and should subside within a few days. Pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to help manage any discomfort.
Patients should avoid touching or scratching the treated areas and refrain from any strenuous activity, including exercise and heavy lifting. The scalp should be kept dry and clean, and patients should follow their surgeon's post-operative care instructions, including any prescribed medication and washing instructions.
First Week After Surgery During the first week after surgery, patients may notice scabbing and crusting on the transplanted area. This is a natural part of the healing process and should not be picked or scratched. Patients should also avoid any direct sun exposure to the treated areas and wear a hat or protective clothing when outdoors.
Around day seven, patients will typically return to the surgeon's office for a follow-up appointment. During this appointment, the surgeon will examine the transplanted area and remove any remaining sutures or staples.
Long-Term Healing Period The long-term healing period for FUE hair transplants can last several months to a year or more, depending on the individual patient and the extent of the procedure. During this time, the transplanted hairs will begin to grow and thicken, and patients will begin to see the full results of their procedure and if it has in fact worked.
Patients should continue to follow their surgeon's post-operative care instructions during the long-term healing period, including any prescribed medication and washing instructions. Patients should also avoid any harsh chemicals or styling products on the treated areas and avoid any direct sun exposure without proper protection.
In conclusion, the healing process for FUE hair transplants is typically straightforward and involves some discomfort and downtime in the immediate post-operative period, followed by a week of scabbing and crusting, and a long-term healing period where the transplanted hairs grow and thicken.