What are Dilators?

Dilators were first invented by a Colorado-based practitioner named Dr. Emanual Marritt in 1988, who needed a way to keep track of where to place hairs during a transplant. These thin, elongated instruments were placed throughout the scalp as markers during hair transplant surgery.

How Dilators Work

During a hair transplant procedure, the patient must have their hair relocated from one area of the scalp to another area experiencing hair loss. The hair that is being transplanted is called the donor hair, and the area that is receiving the hair is called the recipient site.

The recipient site is a tiny incision, and hair transplants can involve hundreds of them. Dr. Marritt inserted dilators into the recipient sites as a way to keep track of each one. This way, no recipient site would go overlooked and unused.

Why are Dilators No Longer Popular?

The medical community largely considers dilators to be outdated for three reasons.

  1. First, these instruments cause more damage than necessary by expanding the scalp tissue. Also, inserting any foreign object into the tissue during surgery is going to increase the risk of infection, bleeding, and even scalp necrosis. These are all potentially serious complications, especially for an elective cosmetic procedure.
  2. Second, the use of dilators is an extra step in an already lengthy surgical process. Inserting a dilator into every recipient site was time-consuming, and a potentially awkward experience for the patient, too. Patients undergoing hair transplant surgeries using this method have been compared to pincushions or even referred to as “cushion heads”. Most importantly, many hair restoration experts could achieve maximum density without using dilators. Even Dr. Marritt himself eventually stopped using them altogether.
  3. Lastly, hair transplants using dilators do not typically look as good as traditional hair transplants without them. Since the dilators are constantly in the way, doctors cannot place the grafts as close together as possible so as to achieve maximum density. The new hair patterns tend to look unnatural because more hair could have been placed in the same area without using the dilating method.

Is it Illegal for Hair Clinics to Use Dilators?

While it is not illegal to use this method, it is considered by many to be barbaric and unnecessary. If a clinic still uses these instruments, it is a damning indication that they are not up-to-date on current hair restoration techniques and strategies. There are many safer alternatives. In some clinics, the doctors are set in outdated methods such as using dilators. In these offices, it is cheaper to continue a potentially harmful practice than it is to reequip the facility with modern amenities and retrain the staff. Any hair doctor who wants to use this method should be approached with caution – most doctors do not need the assistance of dilators to replace hair. Always be sure to thoroughly question your hair doctor before making a selection in order to prevent any complications from arising during your hair restoration procedure.

Return to the Hair Transplant Glossary