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Body hair transplantation (BHT)
Body Hair Transplantation (BHT)
Hairs from the head area are generally used for transplantation purposes. However patients sometimes do not have enough hair on their heads to achieve the desired result. In such cases it is possible to transplant body hairs, as such hairs are very similar to head hairs in structure and quality. Hairs may be taken from the legs, the arms, the stomach, the chest, the back, the armpits or even the face. At Dr. Feriduni Hair Clinic we only perform Body Hair Transplantation with donor hairs taken from the chest, the back or beard.
For certain patients, body hair can become the source of several thousand grafts additional donor material, especially when patients have a high amount of body hair at their disposal. This extended donor area is especially indicated to increase the overall hair density or to fill in a crown area – treatment options that would not otherwise be possible for patients with limited scalp donor hair. Body Hair Transplantation is however not really indicated in case of a full hair reconstruction or to restore the patient’s hairline.
Body hairs are removed using the FUE technique, leaving no linear scar. Body hair grafts are then implanted in the same way as grafts of head hair.
Which patients are suitable for body hair transplants?
Generally speaking, donor hairs are taken from the tonsure, i.e. from the back or side of the head. Patients with insufficient hair in the donor area are unsuitable for a normal transplant. The reasons for not having enough hair include normal hair loss or result from previous hair transplants making any further extraction of donor hairs from the head impossible.
The results of a hair transplant with unsuitable donor hair are generally unsatisfactory, as these can only compensate hair loss to a minor extent. Moreover any resulting scars will be visible.
Dr. True uses a special technique to determine the feasibility of a BHT - the Torso Donor Index, or TDI for short. Used for assessing the donor area for a body hair transplant, the TDI takes five criteria into account:
Criteria for assessing BHT suitability: the Torso Donor-Index
- Hair density must be above 40 FUs per cm²
- Similarity between the body and head hair
- The number of FUs with 2 - 3 hair follicles
- The size of the donor area
- The length of the body hair
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Where the Torso Donor Index is less than 4, the patient is deemed unsuitable for a body hair transplant. Patients with a TDI score of 5 - 7 may be suitable under certain circumstances. Patients with a score of 8 or more have more body hair than head hair suitable as donor material and are therefore suitable candidates for a body hair transplant.
Differences between a BHT-FUE and a conventional FUE
The technique for transplanting body hair is derived from the FUE technique, and basically involves extending the donor area to the whole body. BHT is used primarily in cases where the donor area on the head is no longer suitable for the extraction of donor material or is not dense enough.
In such cases, and provided the physical requirements are met, follicular units can be extracted directly from different area of the body - torso, arms or legs - and transplanted to the scalp. The BHT-FUE method opens up new possibilities especially for patients whose donor areas have been badly used or even destroyed through the use of outdated methods.
Candidates for a BHT must meet certain physiological requirements, i.e. the body hair must be suitable for use as head hair. Body hairs are subject to different growth cycles. Whether these change over the course of time has not yet been scientifically proved, though our own experience points to this being the case.
FUs taken from the body are anatomically different to hairs taken from the head. Whereas FUs taken from the head generally consist of 1, 2 or 3 hairs, in most cases FUs from the body only have one hair.
The following example illustrates the differences between donor material from the body and from the head. 60 FUs per cm² of body hair lead to a hair density of 60 - 70 hairs per cm², whereas 60 FUs per cm² of head hair result in a density of 90 - 120 hairs per cm². This shows that, to obtain natural looking hair density, nearly twice as many implants are needed. This is also the reason why a BHT is predominantly used to improve the density of head hair.
The principal differences between a body hair FUE and a conventional FUE:
- The growth direction of the follicular units
- The type of skin and its characteristics
- The depth of the hair follicle under the skin
- The thickness and structure of the hairs (straight, curly, wavy)
It is absolutely necessary for the hair surgeon doing such a transplant to have adequate knowledge and experience of both transplantation techniques - FUT and FUE - and to take certain basic principles into account, for such a transplant to be successful. These include:
- The correct extraction of donor hairs
- The right preparation of the follicular units
- The error free storage and hydration of the extracted grafts
- Optimal implantation, taking into account growth direction and the arrangement of the grafts
- Obtaining a natural hairline
- A careful approach and the use of the right technique, damaging as few grafts as possible.
There are three key success factors for any BHT:
- The extraction of the hair follicles
- The growth cycle of the body hairs
- The compatibility of head and body hairs
As a technique, body hair transplantation has not yet been the subject of as much research as has been done into the FUE and FUT methods. Due to the lack of experience and know-how, BHT should be seen as the last-resort method for improving an existing situation.
The limitations of BHT
The experience we have gained up to now points to a 70 - 80% survival rate. Though this might seem low, for many patients it is the only option. Patients wishing to have a BHT should be aware of the fact that no guarantee can be given for a high percentage of implants actually taking root.
Body hairs can change their structure after being transplanted - in most cases they become longer and straighter, interestingly adapting somewhat to head hair structure.
Patients wanting to undergo BHT treatment should be aware of the fact that this form of treatment is a last-resort attempt, with success chances not foreseeable. This means that patients considering a body hair transplant must fulfil certain criteria, including the TDI mentioned above. Under certain circumstances, the treatment may also be suitable for patients who have already undergone transplantation and where the results look completely unnatural, meaning that living a normal life seems impossible.
This all means that any patient wishing to undergo BHT treatment needs to discuss this in depth with his hair surgeon. Similarly the operation must be performed by a fully competent hair surgeon, as the success of a body hair transplant is dependent on the experience, know-how and abilities of the surgeon performing the operation.
At our clinic we use hair from the chest as donor hair in any such transplantation. Due to the very high risk of scarring, Dr. Feriduni does not transplant beard hair.
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