The Surgical Map: How hairs "go in" matters more than how they "come out" !

Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE)

There is a lot of attention nowadays about what's a better technique for hair transplantation - follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE).  I perform both and both have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

But one aspect of surgery that is all too forgotten about in amongst the discussions of how to remove hairs from the back of the scalp - is how to put them back into balding or thinning areas so the result is natural.


The end result of either strip harvesting or FUE is the same - the production of "follicular units" - either one haired grafts, two haired grafts or three haired (or more) grafts. These are shown in the photo to the right.  Every patient has a different proportion of these grafts in the back of their scalps and so the planning of how they go into the balding areas must be given very careful considered. I refer to the exact plan of how hairs go into balding areas as the 'surgical map'

The surgical map in hair transplantation

If a patient is undergoing a transplant in the frontal area of the scalp, the typical surgical map would follow a pattern something like this: The one haired grafts are placed in the frontal area and placed in an irregular manner so as to create a soft and natural look. Anywhere from 100-400 one haired grafts might be placed in the front depending on the number of grafts they have and the density we are trying to achieve.  The two haired grafts are placed behind the one haired grafts the three haired grafts follow this.

txp map.png

A transplant session of 2000 grafts might contain:

200-400 one haired grafts

800-1500 two haired grafts

300-800 three haired grafts

One haired grafts vs two and three haired grafts

I view the one haired grafts differently from grafts that contain two and three hairs. One haired grafts are fantastic to help create a soft and natural look in areas. The three haired grafts (and too a lesser extent the two haired grafts) are importance for one main reason - building density!  The decision on where to put three haired grafts is very important. They are placed in areas where getting high density is important. 

Final comment

The way hairs are removed from the back of the scalp (i.e. FUSS or FUE) is important - but the way they go back in is more important. Ensuring the hairs are packed with the appropriate density, ensuring the sites are made at the correct angle and direction and ensuring the the one-haired, two-haired and three-haired grafts are put into the best possible locations are some of the most important factors to help ensure a natural result for patients.

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Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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