The follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or “strip” method of hair transplantation tends to be considered antiquated by many who are considering hair restoration surgery. Consumer preference for the follicular unit excision (FUE) procedure has increased over the years for a number of reasons – some of which are misconceptions based more upon marketing than fact. However, refinements in the procedure have greatly reduced the early drawbacks, and may be the better option, depending upon one’s circumstances.
The FUT was a breakthrough technique when developed and introduced in the mid-1990s, providing a significant aesthetic improvement over the “mini-grafting” and “micro-grafting” methods then prevalent. These tended to create the unnatural telltale corn row, doll hair, pluggy-looking results associated with hair transplants of yesteryear.
As Dr. Marco Barusco – Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Tempus Hair Restoration – explains in his video – “Is FUT or Strip Surgery a Thing of the Past?” – on his YouTube channel, Hair Loss Medical Advice, the FUT is performed by removing a finger-width of scalp, with the lower and top edges of the incision brought together and stitched. This results in a pencil-line linear scar across the back of the head that is concealed by hair. A haircut with #3 or #4 clippers on the back and sides of the head usually completely conceals the donor scar.
“The suturing technique that we use is sort of like a baseball stitch,” says Dr. Barusco. “It’s called the running suture. Basically, there are knots on the ends and then just little loops bringing the tissue together. Almost immediately, the lines practically disappear. The stitches that we use now are dissolvable, so you don’t have to even come in to the office to have them removed. The hair will curtain over, completely concealing the stitches. The typical patient assumption about the FUT is that it will be aggressive and painful, and leave a huge scar that they will not be able to cover. This is not true.”
The Difference Between FUT and FUE Procedures
The FUT procedure involves harvesting a very small strip of hair and skin from the donor area, then placing it under a microscope to be prepared for implantation as hair grafts. Also known as a hair implant or follicular unit, a hair graft is a cylinder of skin and hair that encompasses the hair follicle, the sebaceous gland (which secretes sebum – a lubricating oily matter – into the hair follicles to lubricate the skin and hair), the arrector pili muscle (a microscopic band of muscle tissue which connects a hair follicle to the dermis), and the papilla – or bulb – of the hair. A hair graft includes all of these structures. Each follicular unit graft can contain one to three (or even four) hair follicles. Our blog post – “An Up-close Look at Hair Grafts” – covers this topic in greater detail.
The FUE involves harvesting follicular units from the scalp individually with a small diameter round punch. As Dr. Barusco explains in his YouTube video – “Are There Advantages of FUT Over FUE?” – “They need to be harvested with good quality and without trauma. These hairs – these groups of hairs – are harvested individually with a little punch, and the difference between that and the FUT is that you don’t have to take these grafts to the microscope to be dissected. We take them there just for quality control to see what they look like, but they are somewhat harvested ready to be implanted.”
Unlike the fine linear scar of the FUT, the FUE leaves circular dot-like scars, which are also easily concealed. Therefore, unscrupulous hair transplant clinics may claim that the FUE is “scarless,” which is false. Our blog post – “Is the FUE Procedure Right for You?” – covers this technique in greater detail.
How Did the FUT Come to be Considered Outdated?
Advertising by some hair transplant clinics creates the misleading impression that the FUT leaves unsightly scars. These types of ads are intended to scare prospective patients away from FUT surgery so they only consider the FUE procedure – which perhaps is the only type the surgeon offers, or prefers performing. Such surgeons also may heavily promote FUE because they have a robotic device that harvests follicles. Dr. Barusco provides his insight as to the serious risks such devices create in hair transplantation surgery in an informative article we encourage you to read here. In addition, the media actively spreads the fallacy about FUT being an outdated technique, as most articles about hair transplant procedures are written by those who have no background in this area of medicine.
“Many times, it’s portrayed as if it’s the only – or the best – solution for a hair transplant procedure,” says Dr. Barusco. “I don’t agree with that. The FUE technique does not work for every single patient, for a variety of factors. Strip surgery is still a great technique. I perform both, and don’t have a preference, so I can tell you which one is better for your particular situation.”
In fact, the FUT was the better procedure for Dr. Barusco’s own hair transplant, having undergone four FUT surgeries himself. “I still have a lot of donor hair left. If I’d had an FUE, my donor area would probably be much weaker.” Why? Dr. Barusco compares the situation to that of resodding a bare area of lawn with patches of turf taken from other areas of the lawn. “If you do enough of that kind of harvesting, you end up having holes, and that’s what can happen with the donor area.”
The FUT may be the preferable option for the following types of patients:
- Those who need a large number of grafts moved during a single surgery.
- Those who will require multiple surgeries to reach their goal.
- Those who will require additional hair transplant surgeries over time.
- Women – However, not every woman experiencing hair loss is a good candidate for a hair transplant.
Combining the FUT and FUE Procedures to Achieve Maximum Coverage in One Surgery
Although the FUT and FUE are different procedures, they can be used in tandem. Among his many contributions to the hair transplantation field, Dr. Barusco is known for pioneering the combined FUE and FUT technique, which is designed to treat advanced hair loss during a single surgery as opposed to several with a one-year waiting period between – as is typical. This procedure allows patients to achieve their ultimate goal in less time, with one procedure versus many.
Be aware that this is an advanced procedure that should be performed only by surgeons and teams with a significant amount of experience in this specific technique. For this reason, selecting the right hair restoration practice is essential to achieving a good outcome.
Make an Informed Decision and Choose Your Surgeon Wisely
As we hope you’ve learned, the FUT is still a solid option that may be the appropriate procedure for your type of hair loss and/or hair restoration goal. But whether your hair restoration surgeon recommends a FUT or FUE as your better option for a successful result, keep in mind that the success of any hair transplant procedure ultimately depends upon the experience, skill and integrity of the surgeon. Dr. Barusco’s long list of accomplishments, his notable artistic ability and his successful surgical team make Tempus Hair Restoration a renowned practice. Contact us to schedule your free virtual consultation. Dr. Barusco conducts every consultation himself, giving you the opportunity to learn your options in the comfort of your home – or any location, on any internet-enabled device.
Dr. Barusco conducts consultations in English, Spanish and Portuguese. For your greater convenience, Tempus Hair Restoration offers a two-night complimentary hotel stay to out-of-town clients who travel 100 miles or more to our Port Orange, Florida, surgical center. No matter how far the distance, we welcome the opportunity to help you on your hair restoration journey!