Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is today's gold standard hair procedure, however, not it is not widely known that Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) was the first and only method practiced in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was commonly known as the “punched graft method” or “plug” by hair transplant practitioners.
The recent promotion of mechanical devices and powered follicular unit extraction has sparked renewed interest in FUE. Sadly, many of the claims of “superiority” of the newer technique seem more related to marketing and self-promotion rather than a clear explanation to potential patients on how the two methods would work for their personal hair restoration needs.
Follicular units are hair groupings as they occur naturally in the scalp typically containing 1, 2, 3 and 4 hairs. FUT has replaced "mini-grafting" (more than one follicular unit typically in groups of 2 to 8 hairs) as the dominant surgical hair restoration procedure in the late 1990’s.
FUE and FUT (Strip Excision) are two distinct sub-types follicular unit (FU) transplantation that deal with how follicular unit grafts are harvested from the donor area. Both donor-harvesting methods produce follicular units and thus, fall under the larger umbrella of FUT. How follicular units are handled and the processes for implanting grafts into recipient sites are practically the same (although handling and placing grafts vary depending on the clinic - ex: stick and place versus pre-made incisions, bio-preservation/holding solutions, varying implanting devices, etc.)
The above referenced donor harvesting techniques (FUT and FUE) are what is really being compared when FUT vs. FUE is referenced. Below, we compare these two donor-harvesting methods in more detail.
The standard strip excision method involves surgically removing a strip of scalp from the bald resistant donor area of the patient. The donor area is then sutured together. These sutures (either stitches or staples) are then removed about ten days after surgery.
The FUT(strip excision) procedure is more economical (typically half the price per graft of FUE) and also enables a patient to move much larger numbers of grafts/hairs to the balding areas during a single surgical session. However, the donor area after a strip excision surgery will require more time before it is fully healed when compared to the FUE surgery.