Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) works by transplanting hair from a donor into a patient’s scalp. Unlike an earlier procedure called Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), it takes the donor hair directly from the scalp and one by one, rather than in strips. This makes it more ideal for treating small areas, as harvesting on a large scale can take several hours or even days. However, it’s one of the most popular and fastest-growing hair loss treatments in the U.S., mostly because of its non-invasive and fairly harmless nature.
Transplanting donor hair works much like any graft procedure. The balding area is prepared using a small needle, which creates “recipient sites” for the follicles. Once they are on, the follicular units will start producing hair like any healthy follicle. What makes FUE hair loss treatments different is that it’s able to use state-of-the-art instruments to improve the quality of the outcome. The best practitioners use robotic instruments that allow for increased accuracy and less room for human error.
Another advantage of FUE is that it’s much gentler to the donor area. In the strip-extraction procedure used in FUT, the donor area is left with a linear scar, which can take a long time to heal and in some cases may not even heal completely. Donors then have to refrain from strenuous activities, not to mention cover up the area. In an FUE transplant, the donor wounds are very small—often less than 1mm across—and can heal in ten days or less. The scars, if any, are light and hardly noticeable.
FUE also works on other parts of the body besides the scalp. In male patients, the beard and trunk are common alternatives. However, there are limitations to how effective such transplants are, and many doctors have second thoughts on doing so. It can be an option for people who have scarred badly from previous FUE treatments—the doctor can simply take follicular units from the surrounding area and graft them onto the scar.
It must be noted, however, that both FUE and FUT are considered surgical procedures, although FUE is much less invasive. The depth of the incisions is about the same. Also, FUE requires a much larger donor area to be shaved completely. Before opting for either procedure, take note of the main differences, such as invasiveness, donor area, healing time, and cost. No two patients are alike, so shop around and ask your doctor which one will best serve your needs.