Story time! Although I can’t provide photos (by patient request), I’ll do my best to paint the picture…
A man in his early 20’s flew to Los Angeles from Alaska to see me last month. He already had two hair transplant procedures using the follicular unit extraction (FUE) technique — one surgery of 1,000 grafts, and another of 3,000 grafts — by two different doctors (that I won’t name) who each claim expertise in this process. The 1,000 FUE case by the patient’s estimate was about 50% successful, while the 3,000 FUE case had, according to the patient, no growth after a year. The donor area was heavily scarred from the FUE extractions and were easily seen by lifting up the hair. A strip procedure would have produced less scarring than this patient showed now. To compound the problem, those hairs that did grow from the first surgery were placed in a radial direction (like the spokes of a bicycle wheel) and the hair pointed to the sides, not the normal frontal position. So not only was he dealing with a huge failure of growth, but now he had to deal with poor placement for those grafts that did grow! Imagine a person with hair growing out of his head like the spokes of a bike?
This patient most certainly had a low donor density to start. I recommended a strip surgery to harvest the most grafts he can get and with the reduced donor density, I recommended about 1,300 grafts, which is possibly the most I can harvest. Fortunately, his hair loss was only in the first 1 1/2 inches of the hairline and by taking Propecia he might hold the rest of his hair in place, although there is miniaturization behind the frontal 2 inches, suggesting that he might bald further over time. He wanted to look normal, but I could only suggest that I would try to make him look better.
FUE is not a panacea for scars. As I have said here before, the follicular holocaust that is seen in FUE is substantial, even in the hands of those who claim success. This is a buyer beware market. You should always ask to see a number of patients who had the procedure and look carefully at the donor area. Another FUE procedure on this patient will be disastrous (even in my hands), as scarring is clearly a problem.