Who Invented the FUE Hair Transplant?

Who Invented the FUE Hair Transplant, A follicular unit excision (FUE) procedure is the latest trend in hair transplant techniques worldwide.

It allows a practically scarless procedure which results quite satisfying. Estimates say that in 2017, FUE procedures made up around 30% of all hair transplants. 

Impressive, considering that the technique only became popular around 2008 despite being 60 years in the making. 

The results are so good that people cannot help but wonder: who invented the FUE hair transplant?

History of the FUE Hair Transplant

Most sources erroneously attribute the procedure to Dr Norman Orentreich from New York. And while he indeed popularized the ‘hair plugs’ transplants in America, FUE differs from his method.

Out of The East

What eventually became known as FUE saw the light in Japan around the 1939 courtesy of Dr Shojui Okuda. Dr Okuda researched and experimented with different ways of restoring hair to burn victims. 

One of the ways he devised involved using surgical punches of up to 4mm in diameter. Yet, he realized that more natural-looking results came from using punches of 1mm or less, though it required surgical skill.

Dr Okuda didn’t perform hair transplants to balding patients, but he published papers detailing his research.

A second Japanese doctor, Dr Hajime Tamura, picked up Okuda’s papers. He began performing with 1mm or fewer punches and added also trimming and dissecting of the hair follicle to improve its looks. The research remained unavailable outside Japan for decades thanks to WWII, but it basically invented FUE.

The Years of The Strip

Fast forward to 1994, Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) was just being born. The procedure, also known as strip surgery, requires a strip of hair from the back of the scalp removed. This, however, means a notable scar left behind because of it.

Although popular, the scar was subject to debate, many surgeons thinking it was avoidable.

FUE Rediscovered

An Australian doctor by the name of Ray Woods was one of them. Dr Woods rejected any procedure that required to cut open the patient’s scalp, so he looked for alternatives. 

He arrived at the same conclusion that his Japanese predecessors, Dr Okuda and Dr Tamura. Extracting the follicular units directly with scalpels of 1.0mm or less to avoid cutting a strip of hair. 

Dr Woods fought long and hard against a medical establishment that refused to listen for 10 years. It was not until 1999 that he linked with Spencer Kobren, an influential writer and figure of the hair loss scene. Through his platform, Kobren presented FUE to surgeons around the world.

Two of them were Americans: Dr Feller and Dr Cole. Both stared offering their own version of FUE, bringing the procedure to prominence in North America.

So, Who Invented the FUE Hair Transplant?

So, long story short, Dr Shojui Okuda and Dr Hajime Tamura from Japan pioneered the procedure. Later, Dr Ray Woods from Australia rediscovered it. Dr Norman Orentreich only brought to prominence the much-maligned hair plugs implants in America.

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