At an initial consultation, the patient consultant analyzes the patient’s areas to be treated, discusses their preferences and expectations, and advises him/her on the best approach (e.g. single vs. multiple sessions) and what results might reasonably be expected.
For several days prior to surgery the patient must refrains from using any medications which might result in excessive bleeding. Alcohol and smoking can contribute to poor graft survival. Post operative antibiotics are commonly prescribed to prevent wound or graft infections.
Transplant operations are performed on an outpatient basis, with mild local aesthetic. The scalp is shampooed and then treated with an antibacterial agent prior to the donor scalp being harvested.
In the usual follicular unit procedure, the surgeon harvests a strip of skin from the posterior scalp, in an area of good hair growth. The excised strip is about 1–1.5 x 15–30 cm in size. While closing the resulting wound, assistants begin to dissect individual follicular unit grafts from the strip. Working with binocular stereo-microscopes, they carefully remove excess fibrous and fatty tissue while trying to avoid damage to the follicular cells that will be used for grafting. The latest method of closure is called ‘Trichophytic closure” which results in much finer scars at the donor area.
FUE harvesting negates the need for large areas of scalp tissue to be harvested and can give very natural results with little or no scarring.
The surgeon then uses very small micro blades or fine needles to puncture the sites for receiving the grafts, placing them in a predetermined density and pattern, and angling the wounds in a consistent fashion to promote a realistic hair pattern. The technicians generally do the final part of the procedure, inserting the individual grafts in place.
Advances in wound care allow for semi-permeable dressings, which allow seepage of blood and tissue fluid, to be applied and changed at least daily. The vulnerable recipient area must be shielded from the sun, and shampooing is started two days after the surgery. Some surgeons will have the patient shampoo the day after surgery. Shampooing is important to prevent scabs from occurring around the hair shaft. Scabs adhere to the hair shaft and increase the risk of losing newly transplanted hair follicles during the first 7 to 10 days post-op.
During the first ten days, virtually all of the transplanted hairs, inevitably traumatized by their relocation, will fall out (“shock loss”). After two to three months new hair will begin to grow from the moved follicles. The patient’s hair will grow normally, and continue to thicken through the next six to nine months. Any subsequent hair loss is likely to be only from untreated areas. Some patients elect to use medications to retard such loss, while others plan a subsequent transplant procedure to deal with this eventuality.