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Hair transplants: the strip incision method

The strip incision method of hair transplantation uses very thin strips of hair follicles from the back of the head to provide grafts that can be inserted into areas of thinning hair or into patches of scalp that have become bald.

The name strip incision is somewhat misleading, however, because although the follicles are harvested in strips, they are not transplanted or inserted in the same way. Instead, the strips are expertly separated into much smaller hair transplant micrografts of no more than four follicles. Strip incision hair transplants are also known as follicular unit transplants or FUT hair transplants.


Investigating a strip incision hair transplant

Before you commit to a FUT hair transplant you will need to be assessed by an expert who is familiar with carrying out the technique to make sure that you have suitable areas of hair growth that can be harvested. These will usually be around the back of the head at the top of the neck. If you do not have sufficient growth areas on the head, you may need to consider a FUE hair transplant, which can use hair from anywhere on your body, such as your chest, back, or legs.


Preparing for a strip incision hair transplant

Preparations for a FUT hair transplant begin several weeks before the procedure. Your surgeon will recommend the regular use of minoxidil on the donor area to ensure strong, lush hair growth that provides the maximum number of viable hair follicles. It is also recommended that you have regular scalp massages to loosen the scalp and increase its elasticity, so that it is less likely to pull on the stitches used to repair the strip incision donor site after the FUT hair transplant has been completed.

You will be asked to stop or limit smoking for several weeks and to abstain from alcohol for around three days before the transplant. You will also be asked to wash your hair thoroughly on the day of the FUT hair transplant procedure, avoiding the use of conditioners or any other products that might remain on the hair. It is recommended that you wear a button up shirt on the day of your hair transplant so that you do not have to pull it over your head, disturbing your newly transplanted hair grafts.

Depending on the complexity of your hair transplant surgery, it may take several hours, so you should bring reading matter or something else to help pass the time. You may wish to bring along a friend or family member to keep you company.

The strip incision hair transplant procedure

Strip incision hair transplant surgery is performed under local anaesthetic. One or more thin strips of hair around 1mm wide are removed from the back of the head at the top of the neck. The incision is then stitched or stapled closed. A skilled technician then divides this strip to create high quality micrografts containing between one and four hair follicles and the FUT hair transplant begins.

The micrografts are inserted into thinning or bald areas of the scalp in a careful pattern that reflects the look of natural hair and avoids the ‘doll hair’ regimented rows of previous techniques. Once in place, the micrografts will begin to bond with the scalp straight away, and within a few days of your transplant they will continue to grow as they did in the donor site. The operation can be quite long as the surgeon needs to exercise great skill and creativity in the placement of the grafts to achieve the most natural look.

The shock of transplantation may send the grafted follicles into the rest or telogen stage of the growth cycle, causing an initial and worrying hair loss from the site. However, this does not mean that the hair transplant has failed. Normal growth should recommence in around three months after the hair re-enters the anagen or growth stage. In general, 95-98% of hair follicles transplanted using the strip incision method survive and grow successfully.


After your strip incision hair transplant

You will be able to go home after your FUT hair transplant procedure although you will need to be driven home as you should not drive yourself. Your surgeon will recommend any painkillers or antibiotics that may be required to deal with any discomfort and prevent infection.

You should continue to wear button up tops for a few days after surgery to avoid disturbing the transplanted grafts, and avoid washing your hair for the first few days. You can then return to normal using some care and caution until you feel confident that your scalp has fully healed.

There should be very little pain at either the strip incision micrograft donor site or the recipient areas of the scalp, and you should be able to return to work after resting for a couple of days.

The scar at the donor site will soon become covered by the hair at the back of your head, while the skill of the FUT hair transplant surgeon means that the transplanted follicles will quickly blend in with your existing hair, giving you a natural fuller head of hair.


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