New hair transplant method a “big confidence booster”
A pair of plastic surgeons in Hyannis are the first in New England to offer and be trained in the latest version of a leading device for hair transplantation.
Michael A. Loffredo, MD, and Seth Jones, MD, of Cape and Islands Plastic Surgery in Hyannis, recently purchased a NeoGraft 2.0. The device is an improved model of NeoGraft which debuted 15 years ago, and uses a technique called follicular unit extraction, or FUE, in which individual hair follicles are harvested and transplanted to thinning or bald areas on a patient’s head.
Josh Soto, an operations manager at NeoGraft’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas, confirmed that while other New England clinics may have earlier versions, Drs. Loffredo and Jones are the only ones with the 2.0 model.
“It’s a very new device,” said Soto. “We’ve just begun shipping it.”
The partially automated device works by a doctor or technician using a hand tool to select and remove tiny cylinders of scalp, each containing a single follicle, from which may grow one to four hairs. These are typically taken from the back of the head. A vacuum hose connected to the tool removes the grafts, which are then hand-sorted. The grafts, in turn, are individually placed with forceps in little holes in the graft area.
According to James Mulidore, who underwent the procedure with Drs. Jones and Loffredo, the technique was relatively painless and far superior to earlier forms of hair transplant, in which a horizontal strip of donor tissue several inches long was taken from the back of the patient’s head, leaving a permanent bald band of scar tissue. Thick plugs of scalp, each containing about 10-15 hairs, were carved from the strip and inserted into the transplant areas.
“The old method looked like doll hair,” Mulidore said, of the clumps of transplanted hair.
He also said that since he wears his hair short, the strip method would have left a scar for all to see, as the surrounding hair wouldn’t cover it.
“I know a couple of guys who have had it done,” he said. “Not so attractive, especially if you have shorter hair.”
Hundreds of Follicles
NeoGraft is not the only company or device employing FUE, and each has its adherents. According to the Hair Transplant Network, leading competitors include the Harris S.A.F.E. (Surgically Advanced Follicle Extraction) System and the ARTAS robotic system. On its website, ARTAS is described as “physician-assisted,” and it uses algorithms to choose the follicles for harvesting.
Both NeoGraft 2.0 and the Harris S.A.F.E. methods rely on the skill of the operator to select, remove and transplant follicles. Unlike the S.A.F.E. system, the NeoGraft 2.0 employs suction and has a tablet-like digital interface.
A robotic device may damage follicles in which the hair is growing out at an angle, Dr. Loffredo said. Using a hand-held tool is better, because it allows the operator to match the tool to the angle of the hair shaft, limiting the number of unusable follicles harvested.
Dr. Loffredo said that although he and Dr. Jones trained to perform all aspects of the operation, they have NeoGraft technicians do the follicle harvesting and implantation, as they are especially experienced and swift at this repetitive work. An operation may involve moving hundreds, if not thousands, of follicles.
“They have had those grafters doing this for 15 years,” Dr. Jones said. “We numb the patient up, map out where the hair goes.”
Drs. Jones and Loffredo did perform the surgery on Mulidore, who is a cousin of Dr. Jones’. Mulidore, 38, of Las Vegas, Nevada, said he had been researching hair transplants for some time before deciding to get the operation done on the Cape.
“There are a lot of people doing it who are doctors but not board-certified plastic surgeons,” he said. “I’ve seen some horror stories. Some draw a line across someone’s forehead; looks terrible.”
A Minor Inconvenience
Mulidore, who is the food and beverage director at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, said “I’m in the hospitality business. It’s important for me to look good.”
Male pattern baldness runs in his family. His dad, an entertainer, underwent the strip transplant method to remedy his receding hair, Mulidore said.
He did what many balding men do nowadays and tried shaving his head.
“It didn’t look good,” he said.
“I tried Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil),” he said, and still uses these medicines. “They help keep the hair you do have.”
The operation was a minor inconvenience, Mulidore said. For two days he had to wear a bandage on his head. He had to avoid working up a sweat for a few days, carefully clean his scalp with diluted baby shampoo and keep it moist with a saline spray.
“I went out fishing two days later – just wore a hat,” he said.
The transplanted hair does fall out after the operation, as the follicles that produce the hair go dormant, Dr. Loffredo said. But the follicles recover and grow new hair.
Although it will take months for the full results to be seen, Mulidore’s already enthusiastic.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” he said.
High Customer Satisfaction
Drs. Jones and Loffredo said they chose NeoGraft 2.0, in part, because of the high customer satisfaction rate. They cited a 93 percent “worth it” rating by RealSelf.com, a website that reviews cosmetic treatments. Offering hair restorations fills a hole in their attempt to be a full-service plastic surgery clinic, they added.
They did caution that hair transplantation is not for everyone, as the follicles must be healthy to be moved. This rules out patients with hair loss caused by cancer chemotherapy and some diseases.
It’s also elective surgery, not covered by health insurance. The clinic will be charging $6 to $7 per follicle, Dr. Jones said. Using those figures, a transplantation of 2,000 hairs might cost $12,000 to $14,000.
The potential market is large. Two-thirds of American men will have some hair loss by age 35, according to the American Hair Loss Association. This rises to 85 percent by age 50. The organization says women comprise 40 percent of people with hair loss.
“We’re excited to start using it (NeoGraft 2.0) more – see our patients come back with a new hairline,” Dr. Loffredo said.