As hair transplants become more common, two different methods have emerged: Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) and Follicular Unit Excision (FUE). Both have good success rates, but there are some differences among them — this post looks at those differences and tries to explain them.
The FUT method came about in the 1990s, and at that time was seen as a major advancement over existing techniques. The technique involves removing a thin strip of skin hair from the back of the head and dividing it into different pieces, each containing 1-4 hairs (hair grafts). The grafts are then placed into tiny cuts made in the scalp, and these cuts are closed with stitches. After 10-14 days, the stitches are removed and the donor area heals to form a linear scar. So you end up with a scar on the back of the head, but this scar will only be visible if you have very short hair.
Meanwhile, FUE involves removing individual hairs one by one in hair grafts and then placing these hairs into lots of tiny scars that will not be noticeable regardless of hair length. If a large area is being treated, you may need to have 2 or more sessions a few months apart.
Problems with the FUT
The biggest issue with the FUT is the large scar that remains afterwards. This is a challenge especially for people who want to wear their hair very short, but it’s just an extra problem to deal with.
The medical risks are also a bit higher with FUT than with FUE. Making a large incision also means more bleeding and exposure of the tissue to the outside, which increases the risks of infection and leads to inflammation and swelling. There is also some blood loss and inflammation and swelling when the FUE procedure is done, but it is usually not as bad because only small cuts are made.
It is also more likely that nervous tissue may be damaged when a large incision is made as occurs with the FUT. Different hospitals and clinics can have somewhat different procedures, it’s always recommended to look for more information before you opt for a procedure.
Advantages of the FUE
A hair transplant is generally a safe procedure, but as with any type of operation, there’s always a small risk of complications such as bleeding, infection and allergic reaction to the anesthetic. FUE generally has lower risks due to the smaller incisions. Since FUE involves separate follicular units being cut rather than an entire strip of tissue, it minimizes the risk of infection and inflammation.
In addition, FUE produces very little in the way of scars. In fact, FUE was actually introduced to overcome the shortcomings of the FUT technique. Although it tends to cost more and also last more, it is a bit safer and the results often look much better.
So all in all, FUE lasts longer and is more expensive, but it produces better and safer results.
Of course, the area of hair transplant is still an area actively researched. New techniques of hair transplantation are developed all the time, and some even go outside of the box and use stem cells to grow hair, instead of a transplant.
Two recent studies have also revealed novel ways to combat hair loss in both men and women using small molecules such as JAK inhibitors that reawaken dormant hair follicles, as well as stem cell therapies aimed at growing new follicles.
All in all, hair transplants have never been more effective — both FUE and FUT — but new, completely different approaches are also on the horizon. If you do decide to undergo some type of treatment, do make sure that you get the advice of an actual doctor in a medical facility.