The advances gained in the hair transplant industry over the last decade have enabled hair transplant surgeons to harvest and then transplant larger numbers of grafts. It is not uncommon to read of sessions performed with graft counts of up to 7000. A confusing point for many patients is the discrepancies in graft count quotes they encounter among various clinics they consult. Oftentimes, higher graft numbers are the result of a practice known as splitting grafts. Understanding this practice and the results it can produce is important when deciding which clinic and surgeon to choose for your hair transplant surgery.
Understanding Graft Splitting
The human head is covered by collections of hair in follicular units, or grafts. Each follicular unit contains one, two or three hairs. Approximately 15 to 20% contain a single hair, while 80-85% consist of two to three hairs. It is rare to discover a follicular unit containing more than three hairs.
The practice of graft splitting is performed by cutting the grafts containing two or three hairs into single hair grafts. While increasing the number of grafts, this does not increase the number of hairs. Cutting the graft may also cause a decreased survival rate when compared to a graft left in its natural state. The belief among hair loss specialists is that large numbers of single hair grafts result in a less dense appearance to the hair transplant. Leaving two and three hair grafts intact creates a fuller look to the hair regrowth.
Most hair transplant surgeons agree that a good, safe graft count is between 2500 and 3500. Human hair density averages about 50 to 120 follicular units per each square centimeter. The average distance across the back of the head when measured from ear to ear is between 25 and 30 centimeters. The new patient who has never had surgery should have enough hair available for an adequate graft count.
Graft counts greater than 3500 are usually obtained by cutting a very wide strip or by splitting grafts. Poor scar healing can result from taking a wider strip. Cutting grafts results in a decreased survival rate and a less full look to the hair.
When you are considering hair transplant surgery, don’t allow yourself to be swayed by high graft counts that may be promised. A reputable surgeon should be able to clearly explain the need for the number of grafts and what method will be used to obtain that number. The use of single hair grafts may be part of the surgeon’s design strategy. Ask for a mathematical explanation of how the doctor arrived at the graft count estimate.
You want to achieve a good quality result from your hair transplant surgery, so be cautious when tempted to jump in at the promise of a large number of grafts. The donor area is limited in supply and you don’t want to waste grafts. Find a surgeon that is honest, realistic and speaks to you in a straightforward manner.