Hair restoration methods have evolved over the years. Just like everything else around us, advancements in hair transplantation techniques continue to improve, with a bit more technology infused at every stage.
Often progress is slow and gradual but every so often newly introduced technologies bring about drastic leaps in what can be achieved to deal with hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
One such advancement is the Neograft system. This is a semi-automated method of hair transplantation that utilizes a specialized tool for the extraction and implantation of hair follicles. Enhanced precision improves the overall success of procedures and reduces the chances of post-surgery complications.
As expected, it comes at a higher cost compared to older methods.
Read on as we break down this new technology, tell you how it works and what makes it so much better than the two methods of hair transplantation that have been available on the market.
Types of Hair Transplants
Before we delve into the newly introduced technique, let’s take a look at the two main hair transplantation techniques which have been available for men dealing with male pattern baldness.
FUT and FUE
For men who opted for the procedure a few decades ago, the only option was the Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) method. Later came the more advanced Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) method.
The main difference between the two is the harvesting techniques. A similar process is used to transplant extracted follicles.
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)
In this method, the surgeon extracts a strip of the scalp from the donor site which is usually at the back of the head. Hair follicles from this strip are harvested and transplanted to the recipient area.
The donor area is then sutured, a repair process that inevitably leaves a linear scar across the back of the head.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
For FUE, the surgeon extracts individual hair follicles directly from the donor site and transplants them to the recipient area. No strip of skin is extracted, there is no suturing or stitching so it doesn’t leave any scarring.
However, it calls for a highly-skilled, experienced surgeon, therefore, making the procedure more expensive than FUT. Higher costs are also because it is a more time-consuming procedure that often requires multiple sessions.
Neograft FUE Hair Transplantation
Neografting is an advanced, semi-automated version of the FUE method as it uses the same basic process. It is a minimally invasive technique that, like traditional FUE, has the surgeon extract hair follicles directly from the scalp in their naturally occurring groups of three to four hairs, only that in this case it is done using a specialized tool.
Differences between Traditional FUE and Neograft Hair Transplantation
Although the neografting method has its roots (pun not intended) in FUE, there are some key differences that set it apart from traditional FUE. Let’s pull out a fine-tooth comb and pick out the differences.
In traditional FUE, the surgeon uses a scalpel to manually select and extract hair follicles from the donor site. He then makes numerous tiny incisions on the balding area and proceeds to implant the hairs in each individual incision.
In the neografting method, the surgeon uses a specialized Neograft tool known as a wand to extract hair follicles from the donor area through suction. After extraction, there is no need to make individual incisions as the tool makes incisions and implants the follicles simultaneously.
The Neograft machine
Traditional FUE is a manual process. The surgeon extracts individual hairs by hand and implants them by hand.
The Neograft FUE technique makes use of a Neograft machine. A large piece of equipment with several parts, the main one being the extraction and implantation handpiece. This ergonomically shaped metallic instrument has what physicians refer to as a ‘punch.’ That is a tiny tube with a sharp edge.
The surgeon uses the punch to point at individual hairs and extract them from the scalp. An attached suction device provides sufficient power to carry them through a small thin tube and into a graft canister from which they can be collected and then transplanted.
It is worth noting that while some surgeons say this suction is completely harmless, others disagree. The latter group prefers not to use this tool saying that suctioning dries out the grafts, therefore, reducing their chances of survival and subsequently reducing the potential success rate of the procedure.
Costs vary widely depending on where you have the surgery done, the number of grafts required to cover balding areas, and the surgeon’s level of expertise. However, we can work with ballpark figures for purposes of comparison.
FUE hair transplant surgery in the U.S will set you back between $4,000 and $15,000. According to the New Jersey Hair Restoration Center, Neograft FUE transplantation costs range between $5,000 and $18,000.
Higher costs can be attributed to the cost of the high-tech machinery used as well as highly skilled surgeons who are well-versed with the technology.
Although overall costs for Neografting are higher, this advanced technique does save you time as it is less time-consuming. It can be performed much faster than traditional FUE. For instance, a man who requires 3,000 grafts extracted and implanted would need at least two sessions for the entire process.
However using the Neografting technique, the same number of grafts can be extracted and implanted in a single session.
We know that no hair transplant surgeon can promise a 100 percent success rate. Even the most highly qualified surgeons admit that they cannot guarantee full and total hair regrowth of transplanted hair. That said, neografting does promise higher success rates.
Success rates for traditional FUE procedures generally range between 25% on the lower side and about 96% at best.
Neografting promises success rates ranging between 92% and 98%. The semi-automated extraction ensures minimal damage to hair follicles, therefore, ensuring better survival after implantation. Automated implantation also ensures improved accuracy such that hairs are well distributed and implanted at the ideal depth for regrowth.
Aside from the cost, another major concern for men considering hair transplantation surgery is the recovery time. Just how long will you have to take time off work or generally take it easy before resuming your everyday busy schedule?
The amount of time recommended depends on how invasive the procedure is.
Recovery time after a Neografting FUE procedure is shortest as patients can return to work and resume light activity in as little as a week after the surgery. Traditional FUE on the other hand is relatively more invasive. Patients recover well enough to resume normal activity in about two weeks.
Both of these are obviously a lot shorter than FUT transplantation, the most invasive hair transplant method from which patients take about 5 weeks to recover.
Risks of Neograft FUE Hair Transplantation
Neografting is no doubt a step in the right direction where hair restoration and specifically hair transplantation is concerned. However, there are a few risks linked to the new technology. These generally revolve around an ongoing learning curve. It is still a relatively new technology that surgeons are yet to build expertise in.
Overharvesting of hair follicles
Ideally, the surgeon should be able to harvest hair follicles to ensure that there are no signs of hair loss left on the donor site. If too many follicles are harvested from the same donor area, it may cause aesthetic problems giving it a ragged, moth-eaten appearance.
Unlike FUT procedures, neither traditional FUE nor neografting leave significant scarring. However, in some instances, patients are left with micro-scarring at the donor site after the minute wounds have healed.
If you choose to wear your hair long, this could be a negligible problem as they are hardly visible under long hair. However, if you like to wear your hair short, these scars are noticeable and of course quite unsightly.
Abnormal growth direction
Yes, your hair is actually angled in a certain direction. This is why it grows and naturally falls in a common direction. When carrying out a Neograft FUE hair transplant, the surgeon must be keen to observe the angle of each hair follicle and be sure to implant it at the same angle on the recipient area. If this is not done, the transplanted hair may grow in the wrong direction, making it look strangely unnatural.
This is one of the key advantages of the Neograft FUE hair transplantation handpiece. It is ergonomically shaped to enable the surgeon to hold it to match the angle of the follicles being extracted and match the same when implanting it. Even then, surgeons who are not keen on hair angling could make errors.
Similarities between Traditional FUE and Neograft Hair Transplants
Despite numerous differences, Neografting is at the end of the day a form of the good old FUE hair transplantation method. Many characteristics are common to both processes. These include who can and cannot have a hair transplant, regrowth time, and aftercare recommendations.
Factors that could render a man an unsuitable candidate for hair transplantation are more or less the same regardless of the specific method to be used.
He must have sufficient healthy hair in the donor area to allow for the extraction of sufficient follicles to cover the balding area.
Patients should also be in good health with a healthy immune system. Poor health increases the risk of post-surgery complications which could be more serious than hair loss. Chronic conditions like diabetes must be disclosed and discussed with the surgeon before scheduling the procedure.
Long wait for regrowth
This advanced technology comes with numerous advantages and conveniences but no, it doesn’t change the lengthy wait for regrowth.
Just like in any other form of hair transplantation, the scalp goes into a ‘recovery’ phase immediately after the surgery. After a month or so it is normal for hair to fall off before minimal growth begins after 4 months or so. It is at about 6 months that it gets into a real growth phase.
It is after 12 to 18 months or so that the full results of the procedure can be seen.
Side effects and aftercare
Swelling of the forehead or under the eyes is a common side effect after hair transplantation surgery whether it be through traditional FUE or neografting. You may be wondering why these parts of the head swell up when it is the scalp that suffers trauma.
It happens because surgeons usually inject fluids like anesthesia and adrenaline into the scalp to manage pain and also to create a space between the scalp and skull muscles which makes extracting hair follicles easier. These fluids don’t drain out immediately, therefore, causing oedema in the first 6 days after the surgery.
Elevated sleeping position
To manage swelling it is advised that patients sleep with their heads elevated at about 45 degrees for the first few nights after the procedure. This helps to reduce swelling and minimizes the chances of pressure building up.
You could choose to set your head on a number of pillows on the bed or sleep on an elevated chair which can be adjusted to achieve the required angle.
This is one of few instances when your physician advises that you steer clear of the gym. It is best to avoid exercise after hair transplant surgery because it raises blood pressure and induces sweating. Increased blood pressure could make swelling worse and sweat could cause irritation to the sensitive scalp.
You can resume light exercise which doesn’t make you sweat 7 days after the surgery and heavy exercise after the 2-week mark. Men who swim or play contact sports are advised to wait at least a month.
If you have been considering a hair transplant but had not taken the leap, you may be glad that you delayed. Now there is the option for Neografting hair transplantation. A newly introduced, advanced version of the FUE technique which has been on the market.
This new method replaces manual harvesting and transplantation of hair follicles with semi-automation which introduces a new level of accuracy and precision. The result is higher success rates and faster recovery.
That, however, doesn’t change the basics we know concerning hair transplant procedures. Neografting still requires sufficient healthy donor hair and is not recommended for patients who are not in good health. If you thought hair regrowth will be faster, it won’t. Regrowth takes just as long as it would after traditional FUE transplantation.