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History of Hair Transplants – How Far They Have Come

The term “hair transplants” often comes with a preconceived negative connotation for unnatural looking hair and the now infamous hair plugs of past procedures. Modern hair transplants, however, have advanced exponentially over the last 75 years, resulting in hair restoration that looks completely natural and blends in seamlessly.

The Origins of Hair Transplants

The first known evidence of successful hair transplant surgery dates all the way back to 1822, although the goal of the very first procedures was to restore hair for those suffering from traumatic alopecia due to burns and other physical injuries. Outside of these early procedures, hair restoration techniques were mostly delegated to mysterious snake oils and vitamins that were sold under the notion of restoring hair for balding men. Needless to say, these pseudoscience methods did not prove effective and unfortunately still persist today in various forms, taking advantage of those suffering from hair loss and seeking a solution.

The Development of Modern Techniques

Japanese dermatologist Dr. S Okuda is now credited with performing some of the first procedures that were similar to modern FUE way back in the 1930’s, and he published the first medical paper on surgical hair restoration in 1939. He made several impressive discoveries and meticulously documented hundreds of procedures with incredible detail. Unfortunately, Dr. Okuda’s work and recognition were hampered by the start of WWII and his research and advances would not be recognized until decades later.

In 1959, Dr. Norman Orentreich revolutionized hair transplant surgery by turning attention to treating androgenetic alopecia, typically referred to as male or female patterned baldness. Dr. Orentreich’s success in transplanting healthy hair follicles from the back and sides of the scalp helped establish what would become known as the theory of “donor dominance.”

In men, the back and sides of the scalp are usually unaffected by hair loss, leaving only the top of the scalp completely bald. Dr. Orentreich noticed that hair follicles taken from the back and sides of the scalp and transplanted to the top of the scalp would continue to grow, despite being placed in an area that had already gone bald. Dr. Orentreich’s work finally gave doctors clarification for why previous hair transplant procedures had provided varying results.

Hair Transplants Today

Hair transplant procedures gained popularity starting in the 1960s. Patients were finally able to undergo successful hair transplant procedures and restore their balding hair, but the operations were still limited. Early techniques utilized circular punches to remove large amounts of hair at once and transplant them together, creating rows of small hair clusters. These hair transplants are often referred to today as hair plugs and can be very noticeable to even the untrained eye.

The advent of the techniques used today began in 1996 when the method known as follicular unit transplantation (FUT) was created. During FUT, a strip of skin from the donor sites along the back and sides of the scalp is excised. The scalp is then stitched back together, allowing hair to grow over and hide the scar. Healthy individual follicular units are then dissected from the strip using stereoscopic dissecting microscopes and painstakingly transplanted for completely natural results. The FUE procedure was first invented in 1989 and was first made available in North America in 2002. This is the procedure that transplants hair by extracting the naturally occurring follicular units from the donor zone using a small punch, before they are placed into the balding scalp. Nowadays, these techniques continue to be refined and can provide results that are indistinguishable from the surrounding hair.

At Arocha Hair Restoration and Transplant Clinic, we offer our patients the latest in hair transplant operations to provide you with the best results. If you are experiencing hair loss but are apprehensive about hair transplant surgery, then schedule a consultation with Dr. Arocha to discuss how far hair transplants have come. Call us today at 713-526-HAIR (4247).