If you have spent any time researching the various treatments for hair loss, you are no doubt familiar with the acronyms FUG and FUE. Referring to Follicular Unit Grafting and Follicular Unit Extraction respectively, FUG and FUE are two different methods used to harvest healthy, growing hair follicles from donor areas on the scalp so that they can be transplanted into areas where the hair has started to thin. Both of these hair transplant methods have their own distinctive benefits, and understanding the differences between them is the best way to determine which approach may be right for you.
Decades ago, hair transplantation surgery took large groups of hairs, or “plugs,” and transplanted them into the areas where they were needed. Unfortunately this approach often resulted in clearly artificial looking “doll hair” which was aesthetically unacceptable. Over time, the technique was gradually refined into the use of smaller “micro-grafts”, and today far more natural-looking hair transplant results are obtained through the use of tiny follicular units, which are naturally-occurring clusters of one, two, three, or four individual hair follicles. When these follicular units are carefully placed and angled by an experienced dermatologic surgeon, they conform to the pre-existing natural growth pattern and are virtually indistinguishable from the natural hair on the patient’s scalp.
In follicular unit grafting, commonly referred to as the “strip method,” an actual strip of skin is surgically excised from the back or side of the scalp. This strip is then carefully dissected under a powerful binocular microscope so that the individual follicular units can be separated and sorted for transplant. At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, the FUE method works differently. Instead of removing a section of follicular units all at once, follicular unit extraction removes individual follicular units one at a time, either manually or through the use of the advanced NeoGraft® device. In either case, the follicular units are briefly stored in a nutrient-rich solution of platelet rich plasma before they are transplanted to areas of the scalp where the hair is thinning.
The real difference between the two methods lies in the scars that they leave behind. The removal of a strip of follicles during follicular unit grafting leaves a wound that must be closed surgically, resulting in a linear scar. Even though we commonly use a special type of closure that allows hair to grow through the scar and the hair around the donor site will usually cover and conceal that scar completely, some patients are concerned that a scar on the scalp will still be visible. Follicular unit extraction does not leave behind this single linear scar, but rather several tiny circular scars scattered throughout the donor area. Some patients, specifically those who have extremely fine hair that has been cut close to the scalp, may find that these circular scars are less noticeable. However, follicular unit extraction techniques tend to be more time consuming and costly, and the removal process may damage the follicular units, leaving fewer available for transplantation, so it is best for patients who are only in need of relatively small transplants. No transplant procedure is truly “scar-less,” even though some may purport it to be, and any time that you remove hairs from the scalp, whether via the strip method or FUE, there will be small scars left behind. The most important thing to remember is that it is the surgeon’s skill and the patient’s diligence in following after-care instructions that ultimately determine how visible any scars will be. With the FUG strip technique, many times the scar is undetectable.
The success of any hair transplant surgery is ultimately dependent on the skill and experience of the surgeon and staff performing the procedure, and for nearly forty years, The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research has been helping patients from around the world achieve full and natural-looking hair transplant results. If you have questions about your hair loss, or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis to help understand your options, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.