A Brief History of Hair Transplantation

johann-friedrich-dieffenbachAttempts of hair transplantation in medical history dates back to the end of the 19th century. Humans have tried to find a solution to hair loss for centuries, and yet the hair restoration in the modern sense was developed by Japanese dermatologists.

Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach published a dissertation reporting a hair transplant in 1822, in Germany. He was the student of Dom Unger who was the first to make the connection between baldness and hair transplantation.

dr-okudaDr. Okuda, a dermatologist from Japan, developed a hair transplant method for burn victims in the 1930s. His findings were advanced and detailed. Dr. Okuda used a punch technique to extract the donor grafts, and implanted them into circular holes. He used follicular units grafts for the burnt sites. Dr. Ocuda did not mainly use his methods for treating baldness. His method was successful and hair grew in the bald areas where he transplanted the hair follicles.

The advances in hair transplant science continued in the 1940s in Japan. Dr. Tamura, a Japanese dermatologist, followed in Dr. Okuda’s footsteps. He employed even smaller grafts of units of one, two or three, and restored the pubic hair in his patients. Dr. Tamura’s method is very similar to the methods of today – he made an elliptical incision for the extraction.

Dr. Okuda’s and Dr. Tamura’s methods did not receive worldwide recognition until the Second World War, when Japan was also a part of the war. The western world and medicine then found out about their techniques, and the both dermatologists documented their findings which helped develop the hair transplantation surgeries of today.

dr-norman-orentreichA New Yorker, dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich, is considered to be the father of modern hair restoration. He performed the first know modern hair transplant in 1952 to treat male pattern baldness. His studies are milestones in hair transplant history. He suggested in his work that the hair on the back of the head is not susceptible to genetic baldness, and is resistant to falling. He called his theory the theory of Donor Dominance. At the time, his findings were criticized and cause much debate. His technique was similar to that of Dr. Okuda’s, and not to that of Dr. Tamura’s whose grafts were smaller. Orentreich’s graft was the punch graft.

The punch graft cause many tragic results for the patients even though hair grew where it was transplanted. Orentreich’s techniques needed more advancements. The results did not always look natural.

When the 1960s arrived, hair transplantation surgeries were now accepted in cosmetic surgery.

In the 1980s, different methods, and a smaller grafts were tried in different countries, and yet, even though the methods continued to evolve, there was still more way to go. Dr. Orentreich method remained the basic method for hair transplants for some years.

masumi-inabaThe middle of the 1990s saw improvements in hair transplantation, and natural looking results were achieved.

The Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant method was first described by Masumi Inaba in 1988 in Japan. Willliam Rassmann and Robert Bernstein were first to describe it in the medical literature in 2002. Follicular Unit Transplantation was introduced in 1995.

Medicine is paying more attention to hair, and hair science is improving. Hair transplantation methods have evolved since the first attempts, and currently, we have a better understanding of hair, and high standard surgeries to restore hair.

Milestones in Hair Transplant


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