For the past few months I have been using a new machine for my FUE procedures called the “New F.U.E. S.A.F.E System”. For those of you who are not familiar, FUE stands for “Follicular Unit Extraction”. It is the process where donor follicles are taken out one by one, instead of removing them via the “Strip Method”, where a strip of donor scalp is removed and dissected under the microscope into individual follicles. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to FUE vs. Strip Harvesting but I will not get into this discussion here. FUE is typically described in marketing and promotional advertisements as a “scarless” procedure. This is not actually true. What is true is that FUE causes many “micro scars” in the areas where the follicles are removed. In most cases these micro scars heal well and only leave a small dot of hypo-pigmentation in each spot where a follicle is removed. This is usually cosmetically insignificant as the area where the donor hair is removed is usually covered by the remaining hair in that region. The other issue with FUE is that in the past there has been a high rate of transection with the removal of the follicles. This means that in the process of removing the follicle, the structural integrity of the follicle is compromised, thus giving the follicle a much lower percentage chance of growth. The goal is a system where there is a low rate of transection and where the follicle is exposed to the lowest amount of trauma possible. There are many new automated and manual systems available now for FUE and I did extensive research into all of them and decided that the SAFE system was the way to go. The thing I really like about this system is that the punch that is used to extract the donor follicle has a blunt tip as opposed to a sharp tip that most of the other systems use. What this means is that since the tip is not sharp there is a much lower incidence of transection. Since donor follicles are very finite in each individual (the average person has about 8000 donor follicles), a lower transection rate of even 10-20% can result in hundreds or possibly even thousands of saved follicles. In addition, because the tip is not sharp, I believe it causes less trauma to the underlying vasculature, which can protect the scalp for future procedures. Also, because this system is motorized, like a small drill, it allows you to “score” the follicles much quicker, thus allowing more follicles to be harvested in a session. With this system, you still have to manually extract the follicles, manually trim the follicles, and manually implant the follicles, but the automation in the drill definitely speeds up the process. FUE is good for some patients and has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We are now able to transplant up to 1200 follicles in a day with the new FUE system, as opposed to significantly lower numbers before this system. In addition, FUE allows us to harvest chest hair, back hair, and beard hair for donor follicles. What is most important, is that every patient throughly understands all the advantages and disadvantages of both harvesting techniques before deciding which route to take in their own hair restoration journey.
Marc Dauer, M.D.