You may have heard the term "graft" when it comes to hair transplant surgery. But how does that relate to hair since that's ultimately what you're trying to achieve with the procedure?
A hair "graft" is just a term for a hair or group of hairs combined in a single unit. For example, follicular units (today's gold standard hair transplant) comes in groups of 1, 2, 3, and 4 hairs. Yet, a 4 haired follicular unit is still a "graft" as is a one haired follicular unit "graft".
Each hair per graft includes its own follicle below the scalp. When the hair sheds typically 2 to 4 weeks after surgical hair restoration, the follicle remains behind and goes dormant for several months. 3 to 5 months later, the follicles begin producing new hairs that grow just like your natural hair.
Understand that only so much can be accomplished with surgical hair restoration. The top of the scalp contains approximately 50,000 to 60,000 hair follicles which is equivalent to approximately 22700 to 27000 follicular unit grafts (if we use the average 2.2 hair per graft conversion). Thus, since the average hair transplant patient has an available donor of approximately 5000 to 8000 follicular unit grafts, full hair restoration (as in, prior to any signs of hair loss) isn't possible on someone who's completely bald such as patients with Norwood class 5 or higher.
Thus, donor hair must be used and transplanted strategically to cover the most ground and add density to the critical areas. This is what we refer to as the "illusion of density", which is approximately 50% of the scalp's original natural hair density. Critical areas typically include reconstructing a natural looking hairline and the immediate areas behind it and other areas as defined by an individual's goals.
Ultimately, patients and hair replacement physicians should discuss all these things befor hand and work out a suitable hair restoration plan the patient is satisfied with. Short and long term goals should be discussed, especially since male pattern baldness is progressive and subsquent procedures may be desired/needed to meet existing and future goals.
Bill - Managing Publisher of the Hair Transplant Network, the Coalition Hair Loss Learning Center, and the Hair Loss Q & A Blog.
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