Methods for Harvesting Donor Hair - Hair Loss & Hair Transplant Surgery Guide

There are two main methods used for harvesting donor hair from sites of flourishing hair follicles. Here we clearly describe the specifics of each method and detail their advantages and disadvantages. It is important to note that careful and skilful extraction of the hair follicles is vital to all methods of harvesting donor hair. Another characteristic shared by all methods is that the transplant tissue must be extracted at an angle corresponding to the natural slant of the hair follicle, as opposed to removal at the angle of the scalp surface.

Strip Harvesting

This is the most common harvesting technique. The patient is placed under local anesthesia, after which the professional uses a scalpel to remove a strip of hair-growing scalp to harvest for transplant tissue. This is generally taken from the sides or back of the scalp for purposes of discretion and to ensure a healthily growing donor site. The surgeon sutures the open wound together, and then the strip of scalp tissue is cut up into grafts or follicular units, which are designed to keep natural groups of hair follicles intact. These grafts are transplanted into the targeted thinning area of hair.

Pros and Cons:

Strip harvesting is tried and tested, and used widely throughout the country. The procedure is far less expensive than Follicular Unit Extraction and suits the needs of innumerable patients. However, the recovery process for strip harvesting takes around two weeks, which includes removal of stitches by a qualified professional. Linear scarring will be visible on the donor site and this may be hidden by the patient’s hair, depending on length and thickness.

Follicular Unit Extraction

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is one of the newest methods on the market, provoking a lot of discussion and interest. After placing the patient under local anesthesia, the surgeon removes individual hair follicles by implementing very small incisions to the scalp, the diameter of which can range between 0.6 and 1.25 mm. The follicles removed by this method can range between one and four hair follicles per graft, comprising natural units of hair (plus oil glands, underlying connecting tissue and muscle). A micro blade is then utilized with the utmost precision to carefully insert each follicle back into the scalp in the targeted thinning area. This is known as Direct Hair Implants.

Pros and Cons:

One of the biggest advantages of the FUE harvesting method is the absence of visible scarring, due to the smallness of the removed tissue. This can be especially important for people with shorter hair. The recovery period is also shorter than with strip harvesting, lasting an average of seven days or less. FUE is useful for treating patients with tight scalps.

However, there are drawbacks. Donor supply can be limited, and the procedure takes a significant amount of time due to the individual extraction of follicular units. Some surgeons will not perform more than 500 hair grafts per harvesting session, though certain surgeons can achieve up to 4000 grafts in one session. The cost of each graft is approximately double the price of regular linear extraction.