There’s a good chance that you’ve seen the word “graft” come up when researching hair transplant surgery. You might be wondering how this is related to hair because at the end of the day what you want from the procedure is, of course, healthy new hair.
The word “graft” is just a term meaning hair or a group of hairs combined to form a single unit. The follicular unit for example comes in groups of 1, 2, 3, and 4 hairs. Ultimately though, a single haired follicle unit is just one “graft” as is a 4 haired follicular unit.
Every hair graft includes a follicle underneath the scalp. When hair sheds around a month or so after hair restoration surgery, the follicle remains where it is and will lay dormant for a number of months. After between 3 and 5 months the hair follicles will begin producing new hair that grows similar to natural hair.
Please be aware that hair restoration surgery can only do so much however. There are around 60,000 hair follicles on top of the scalp, which is around 27,000 follicular graft units (when using an average of 2.2 per hair graft conversion). This means that the average hair transplant patient can donate around 5,000 – 8,000 follicular unit grafts. It’s not possible to perform a full hair restoration – which would be done before hair loss begins to show – on someone that is completely bald like patients who rank five or higher on the Norwood scale.
This means that donor hair has to be used strategically to cover as much ground as possible and give the important areas some extra density. That is what is known as the “illusion of density” which is around 50% of the original natural hair density of the scalp. The critical areas generally include recreating a natural looking hairline and the areas just behind the hairline, as well as the other areas an individual deems important.
These are things that a hair transplant patient and physician should discuss beforehand so they can create a solid hair restoration plan that everyone is satisfied with. Discuss the long and short-term goals, which is particularly important given the progressive nature of male pattern baldness. A patient may require additional procedures to meet their goals.