Thinning hair can undermine the self-esteem of even the most confident person. In an effort to retain a youthful appearance with a full head of hair, many people look to various hair restoration methods as a solution.
According to Dr. Chaffoo, a triple board-certified plastic surgeon in San Diego, California, hair surgery is one of the most critical aesthetic procedures, as it is permanent and can’t simply be covered or hidden.
“We’ve all seen bad plastic surgery and bad hair surgery,” exclaims Dr. Chaffoo. “I tell patients that great plastic surgery whispers while bad plastic surgery screams. Nothing is more true, certainly, than in hair surgery.”
He continues, “From the design of the hairline to the team and devices used, it’s all vital to achieving an aesthetic result. There are also so many options out there for hair restoration and the key is to find something that really works well, gets reproducible results, has FDA approval, and a long safety record.”
Of all of the hair restoration methods available, this specialist feels that the NeoGraft shines as a system. This process automates the latest techniques for a safe, advanced, minimally invasive alternative to traditional hair transplant procedures.
Technically a form of follicular unit extraction (FUE), NeoGraft takes hair grafts from the back of the head (where hair is genetically programmed not to fall out) so they can be placed in thinning or balding areas. Compared to the more common “strip” or follicular unit transplantation surgery, the less costly FUE procedure maximizes the use and preservation of the finite amount of donor hair available. It can be performed with local anesthetic and results in minimal bleeding. The recovery time is also shorter and the procedure doesn’t leave a visible scar.
The older techniques, which are still used in many clinics, use the strip method. A full segment of scalp is removed, which is a deep and invasive procedure that tends to leave a long scar across the back of the head that may be difficult or impossible to conceal.
“It’s as critical how you harvest the hair as how you plant the hair.”
Dr. Chaffoo also points out these linear scars are very unpredictable, as many patients get a scar that widens and it tends to thin out the hair around it. Since you’ve only got a limited number of donor sites in which to transplant elsewhere and in the case of strip procedures, you’ve lost that area.
“The beauty with the NeoGraft system is that it extracts the follicular unit, but does not damage the surrounding tissue,” says Dr. Chaffoo. “After the follicular units are removed, the scalp just contracts down and the surrounding units contract in and that scar heals up so that it is virtually imperceptible.”
Comparing Apples and Oranges …or in this Case Strip Grafts and NeoGrafts
Our publisher, Patrick Dockry, is still numb from his strip graft surgery done at another clinic over a decade ago. Although he had great results otherwise, he has opted to go with the NeoGraft procedure for an update to his continued thinning.
For Patrick’s procedure, the target transplant area is outlined. The donor area in back is shaved and then re-outlined with a Sharpie to clearly identify the site. To anesthetize the affected nerve endings, a local anesthetic called Lidocaine is laced with epinephrine, which helps constrict the blood vessels. When injected, it helps minimize the amount of bleeding during the procedure, as the scalp is the most vascular part of the body.
The punches used to extract the grafts come in a variety of sizes ranging from 1.25 mm to.8 mm but in this case a 1.0 mm was used as Patrick has larger groupings of hair follicles to be harvested. The needle is inserted about 1 mm deep into the scalp at the donor area and then the NeoGraft unit vacuums out the graft, which is immediately placed into a saline solution to keep it moist and help minimize any damage normally incurred from handling. About 1000 grafts, each with 2-5 hairs per follicular unit, are transplanted into the receiving area using a 16 or 18 gage needle. Single hairs are placed at the hairline in front while multiple-hair grafts are transplanted further back.
The next day, Patrick has slight swelling on his forehead and on top of his head where more grafts were transplanted in the crown. There are also small black “crustings” at each transplant site that, according to Dr. Chaffoo, will flake off in another week and will soon be replaced by hairs. Those hairs fall out in about three months and then new hair grows in place. Typically it takes 12-15 months to realize the full effect of the NeoGraft procedure. In the mean time, the donor site has recovered and has been fully restored with normal hair growth.
Several weeks after the surgery, Patrick is proud to show off his full head of hair!
La Jolla Hair MD
9850 Genesee Avenue, Suite 480
La Jolla, California 92037
By: Kelly Taggart
Photos: Aaron Brown