Direct Hair Implantation: Your Guide to DHI for Hair Loss
What is Direct Hair Implantation?
Direct Hair Implantation (DHI) is one of the most popular hair restoration treatments, alongside Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Before we dive into DHI, let’s be clear on how FUT and FUE work first:
- FUT: The surgeon removes a strip of skin from the back of the scalp and extracts its hair follicles.
- FUE: This method involves extracting follicles directly from the back and sides of the scalp.
In both types of hair transplant, donor follicles are implanted into the thinning/bald areas to restore growth. The surgeon cuts channels into the scalp before inserting the grafts.
But this is where DHI (a modification of FUE) differs: surgeons use a handheld, pen-shaped tool to create those channels and implant follicles at the same time.
How Does DHI Work?
Surgeons begin by removing healthy hair follicles from one or more areas of the scalp. Next, they transfer them into thinning/balding zones. These transplanted units gradually grow new hair that blends with the rest.
The procedure involves the following steps:
- The surgeon shaves the patient’s head.
- They administer a local anaesthetic to numb the area and keep the patient comfortable.
- They use a precision tool to remove follicles from the back of the scalp.
- The surgeon loads the follicles into a special DHI tool.
- All donor follicles are implanted into the target areas of the scalp (e.g., the crown, the hairline).
- The surgeon applies an antibiotic cream to treatment sites and dresses them with bandages.
Direct Hair Implantation procedures usually last around 8 hours (as with FUE), but the length can vary. It depends on the number of follicles to be transplanted — a patient with advanced pattern baldness will require more extensive treatment than someone with a mildly receding hairline.
You should see the full results of your surgery within 12 to 18 months.
Who can Benefit from the DHI Technique?
The best candidates experience pattern baldness, like 50% of men over 50. Surgeons can harvest follicles from areas of healthy growth and implant them into affected regions. If pattern baldness spreads from the crown, for example, new follicles can seamlessly restore coverage in that spot.
Other strong candidates share the following traits:
- Over 25 years of age: Hair loss can be difficult to predict in people below this age.
- Thick hair: While people with thin hair may achieve great results, transplants usually work best for thicker hair as each follicle has more coverage.
- Density of 40 follicles per square centimetre: Patients with lower density tend to be weaker candidates.
- Realistic expectations: Surgeons find that people with realistic expectations for their results are usually the most satisfied.
It’s vital that you have a consultation with an expert before you commit to DHI, or any form of hair transplant, to confirm that you’re a suitable candidate.
How Does DHI Compare to FUT and FUE?
All three techniques transplant healthy hair follicles to encourage fresh growth. But the process and results differ.
For example, FUT is often the most cost-effective option but leaves a visible scar. You may need to wear your hair long to cover it.
But during FUE and DHI, surgeons take follicles directly from the scalp to prevent noticeable scarring. As a result, these procedures often take longer and cost more than FUT. But they offer patients more freedom to wear their hair short without worrying about others seeing their scar.
FUE still causes tiny scars, but these are generally not noticeable — even with short hair.
Hair clinics offering DHI procedures claim that it’s today’s most effective, most advanced hair restoration solution. But at the time of writing, no research is available to accurately compare its results with those of alternative treatments.
In general, all forms of FUE surgery can successfully treat hair loss and cultivate permanent growth.
What are the Potential Side Effects of DHI?
Hair transplantation is safe in the majority of cases, and complications are rare. But there are still potential risks to consider:
Infections can occur where follicles are implanted into the scalp or in donor areas.
Bad Reaction to Anaesthesia
Most people will be fine, but anaesthesia can trigger negative effects in some cases. These could be due to fear of injections rather than the substance itself.
Shock Hair Loss
This common side effect tends to occur within eight weeks of the procedure, but recovery usually takes three to four months. Shock hair loss is often a healthy part of the growth process.
It’s crucial that your surgeon implants follicular units in a pattern that matches your natural growth. Otherwise, the results can appear inauthentic.
Research your local surgeons and check reviews to find the best option. Browse photo galleries to see how patients look before and after their procedures.
DHI could also lead to the following complications:
- Inflamed follicles
- Heartbeat increase
- Sparse growth surrounding donor areas
How Much Does DHI Cost?
You could pay between £3,000 and £15,000 for DHI treatment in the UK (on average). Prices may differ from one clinic to another.
Costs are based on:
- The clinic’s location (e.g., London venues can be expensive).
- The number of follicles required.
- The clinic’s brand (bigger names may command higher rates).
Insurance providers could refuse to cover treatment costs, as DHI is classed as a cosmetic procedure rather than essential surgery. Alternatives to hair transplants include finasteride, low-level laser therapy, and minoxidil.
You can reduce the price of your hair transplant by travelling to a clinic outside the UK, such as in Hungary — living expenses and salaries are lower, but service standards are high.