Hair restoration has come a long way since the early days, when people seeking the procedure usually ended up with an unnatural appearance or with hair that looked as though it belonged on a doll’s head. Newer methods of hair restoration, including follicular unit grafting (FUG) and follicular unit extraction (FUE), allow a surgeon to remove hair from the donor site and position it in the recipient area in a way that looks natural and is barely noticeable.
Although follicular unit extraction is often performed manually, meaning the surgeon harvests each follicle from the sides and back of the scalp by hand, newer options automate the procedure, using a robotic technology to harvest the donor hair. Robotic FUE has its advantages over standard FUE or FUG, but isn’t necessarily a replacement for either.
Choosing the Right Hairs
The big difference between FUG and FUE is the way the hairs are harvested before being transplanted. When a surgeon performs follicular unit grafting, a strip of skin containing donor hairs is removed from the scalp. The surgeon then removes the follicles from the strip, one by one, under a microscope.
During FUE, no strip is removed from the back or sides of the scalp. Instead, the surgeon removes the follicles one by one, using a device that “punches” out each follicle. When performed manually, the surgeon needs to carefully choose each follicle for removal.
Robotic FUE automates the process. A surgeon no longer has to carefully evaluate each follicle himself. Instead, the device chooses the hair that is best suited for transplant and removes only those follicles. Hair is removed in a way that reduces damage to the individual follicle.
Robotic FUE can also speed up the process somewhat. Traditionally, FUE was a somewhat painstaking procedure, as the surgeon had to remove hairs one by one, by hand. The number of follicles that could be removed during a single session was less for FUE than it was for FUG. Since the robotic device automates the process, more hairs can be removed during a session, making it suitable for patients with a significant amount of hair loss.
Choosing which follicles to harvest by hand can lead to a lot of trial and error. But, a robotic device can be programmed to identify and avoid specific types of hair. For example, a surgeon may program the device to avoid follicles that contain a single hair. Although a surgeon may split a harvested follicle into several grafts that contain a single hair, it’s often not worth the scarring or the effort to harvest just one hair from the scalp.
One of the major benefits of FUE over FUG, and of robotic FUE over FUG, is that the method eliminates the long scar or incision line across the back of the head. Although the scar from FUG can often be concealed by the hair, it limits the style options a person has.
Scars, if any are visible, from a FUE or robotic FUE hair transplant are usually very tiny dots on the back or sides of the head, since the procedure involves using a tiny punch device to extract each follicle. The barely visible scars mean that a person can wear his or her hair very short or trim the hair on the back of the head short without worrying about exposing a large scar.
Who Can Benefit
Although not everyone can benefit from robotic FUE, the procedure has its place. People who hope to wear their hair short after hair restoration or who have a considerable amount of hair loss can benefit from robotic FUE. Patients with less pervasive hair loss who still hope to wear short hair may do just fine with manual FUE.
The grafts harvested during robotic FUE can also be healthier and more likely to transplant well than the grafts harvested during manual FUE. FUG also tends to produce healthier grafts than manual FUG.
Since every patient has different needs and expectations from a hair transplant, there’s no one size fits all solution. Robotic or automated FUE might be right for you, or you might benefit from FUG or manual FUE more. In the Virginia Beach area, hair restoration specialist Dr. Kyle Choe can evaluate your hair loss and scalp conditions and recommend a method that is right for you. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe, call (757) 389-5850 today.