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The Varona Hair Restoration Blog

A Brief History of FUE Transplants: Going Back to the Procedure’s Roots

FUE (follicular unit extraction) hair transplant is the latest in a long series of advances in hair restoration techniques, each leading to a more natural look after transplant. Advances continue to be made in the techniques of FUE transplant, and Dr. Christopher Varona in Newport Beach, CA, is among the leaders in refining this surgical art. 

Early Hair Transplant Methods

Hair transplant dates back to the 19th century when sections of thickly haired scalp were successfully transplanted to balding or scarred areas. In the 1950s, New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich introduced a method for transplanting plugs of hair to balding areas of the scalp. The method worked and was a step forward, but the result hardly looked natural. The scattered plugs gave the scalp a look of a garden with too few plants — clumps of dense hair growth with visible bald areas between them. This was the image of hair transplants through the 1960s and 70s.

Narrowing Transplants Down to Follicular Units

Year by year, innovative surgeons found new ways to reduce the size of the hair implant, narrowing the size to that of a single hair follicle — a follicular unit. The first follicular unit hair transplants were done in the 1980s using donor follicles harvested in strips of skin from the back of the scalp where hair is thickest. After being removed from the back of the head, this strip of scalp tissue was minutely dissected into small sections for the implant to hairless areas. 

This technique was refined into what is now known as FUT (follicular unit transplantation) hair transplant. It remains an effective method of hair restoration and is the optimal one for some patients. Follicles are now separated from the extracted tissue using a stereomicroscope, minimizing damage to the hair roots and maximizing the number of follicles available for an implant. At Varona Hair Restoration in Newport Beach,  Dr. Christopher Varona has refined the skill of artfully implanting the thousands of hair follicles to replicate the look of a full, younger head of hair. He spaces and angles the transplanted follicles to match the distribution and density of thicker-haired areas of the scalp. 

The drawback of FUT hair transplant is that it leaves a small horizontal scar at the back of the scalp where the donor tissue has been removed. This is not a problem for men or women with hair long enough to cover the scar, but it leaves a hairless strip that is visible with short haircuts. 

Invisible Extraction with FUE Hair Transplant

FUE hair transplant was introduced to the world with the publication of a paper in 2002: “Follicular Unit Extraction: Minimally Invasive Surgery for Hair Transplantation,” by Dr. William Rassman and Dr. Robert Bernstein. In it, they described how active hair follicles could be harvested individually, rather than in strips, without visible scar tissue. The effects of the procedure on the donor area of the scalp were invisible, and the hair in the implanted area was thick and natural-looking. Recovery time for the patient was faster than with FUT transplant. 

In the years since its introduction, improvements have been made in the techniques of FUE hair transplant, both in harvesting individual follicles without damaging them, and in implanting them to replicate the look of the original hair. 

FUE hair transplant remains an art, one at which Dr. Christopher Varona is extremely skilled. Both extraction and implantation of the follicles is delicate work, requiring a steady, expert hand. The roots of the follicles extend beneath the surface of the skin in ways that aren’t visible, and it takes precision and experience to harvest them intact. Choosing which follicles to extract to leave the donor area looking untouched is also an art. Dr. Varona follows new advances in implantation, too, including the practice of placing the follicles at different angles to recreate the look of the original hair.

Dr. Varona has chosen not to adopt robotic follicle harvesting, as some practitioners have. He believes the human touch — his skill and artistry — is essential to extracting follicles from the donor area invisibly. “Spacing, punch size, and distribution all play into the art of camouflage,” he says, and he knows he can accomplish that more effectively than a machine.

Find out if FUE transplant might be the solution for you. Contact Varona Hair Restoration in Newport Beach, CA today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Varona.

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