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Veterans’ Charity Provides Hair Restoration for Wounded Soldiers
by Kurt Doyle
When most people think of hair restoration surgery, they imagine a man who has fallen victim to that inherited condition that is the bane of so many men’s scalps - male pattern baldness. But in his work with the Healing Heroes Network, Dr. Ryan Welter is usually dealing with veterans whose baldness is caused by burns or other combat wounds that result in scar tissue on the scalp that prevents hair from re-growing.
Dr. Welter’s Background
Writing for the Huffington Post, Dr. Welter, who is the Chief Medical Surgeon for the New England Center for Hair Restoration, describes how he came to be interested in hair restoration. When his father had a hair transplant 10 years ago, Dr. Welter was so impressed with the results that he wanted to learn more about hair restoration technology. Far from the hair plugs of years past, Dr. Welter’s work now involves stem cell therapy and individual follicle transplants. And he now uses those technologies to aid veterans suffering from hair loss that is the result of combat action.
Through the Healing Heroes Network, Dr. Welter treats soldiers with battle scars, as well as those with hair loss related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Welter emphasizes that although the procedures are cosmetic, they can make a big difference, writing in the Post that “hair loss and disfigurement can be an ongoing source of stress for anyone who experiences [them], and these problems are compounded for our returning veterans. Anything we can do to help reduce stress and help our veterans enjoy civilian life better will lead to better post deployment acclimation and overall happiness.”
Dr. Welter’s preferred surgical method when dealing with the soldiers is a procedure called Micro Follicular Unit Extraction, or Micro-FUE. It involves harvesting host follicles from another area of the body (referred to as the donor area) and surgically grafting them onto the scalp. The work is incredibly detailed and delicate - the follicles are less than one millimeter in diameter - and has the added bonus of minimizing scar tissue in the donor area.
In addition to Micro-FUE, a similar procedure called Sub-FUE is sometimes employed. In Sub-FUE, only part of the follicle is harvested, which allows hair to regrow both in the remaining follicle at the donor site and in the transplanted follicle. This has the result, writes Dr. Welter in the Post, of “essentially reproducing hair in the process. This leaves the donor area more intact for future growth, and avoids over harvesting of the donor area.”
In addition to Micro-FUE and Sub-FUE, Dr. Welter continues to work with other techniques such as platelet rich plasma therapy. He is also still doing research, most recently on the role stem cells from fat tissue have in growing hair. In his Huffington Post article he explains his motivation by writing, “Our veterans deserve the highest level of technology possible, and my association with the Healing Heroes Network has made giving that high level of care possible.”