What is a Hair Transplant Storage Solution?
A storage solution is a liquid medium used to store follicular units after they have been removed from the donor zone during a follicular unit extraction (FUE) or a follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) technique. Once the follicular unit is removed from the host tissue, it must be placed into a chilled solution between 2°C and 8°C. Typical storage solutions include saline, Ringer’s lactate, and HypoThermosol (arguably the best liquid medium for hair transplants).
Why is a Storage Solution Necessary?
During a hair transplant surgery, a follicular unit consisting of numerous hair follicles is removed from the donor zone (an area of the scalp able to grow healthy hairs) and placed onto the recipient scalp (an area which is not able to grow healthy hairs). When the follicular units are being transported from the donor zone to recipient scalp, a number of conditions can damage the follicular units beyond repair.
- Dehydration – once removed from the donor scalp, the hair follicle can easily and quickly dry out.
- Lack of nutrition – the hair follicles utilize the bloodstream as a source of nutrition. Once removed from the bloodstream, the hair does not have the nutrients necessary to stay alive for very long.
- Ischemic injury – the lack of oxygen does not allow the hair to undergo ADP, a process in which oxygen from the blood is converted into energy.
- Ischemic injury is exacerbated by the fact that harvested hair takes three days to connect to the blood supply again, according to studies. Since the hair does not instantly reconnect to the bloodstream immediately after transplantation, some doctors will have the patient inhale pure oxygen before the surgery.
- PH Balance – sebum (moisturizing oils) in the scalp help regulate the hair’s natural levels of acidity. One study recommends that all chilled storage solutions retain a proper balance of 7.4 to provide maximum protection.
- Microbial fungi and bacteria – a chilled storage solution serves as a liquid barrier that prevents contaminants from reaching the hair graft.
Chilled Storage Solutions Increase Survivability
One study finds that hairs can last in chilled solutions for nearly eight hours before “showing evidence of decreased survival”. In comparison, other studies show that the hair graft can begin to seriously deteriorate after only six hours when left in a saline solution that is room temperature. According to these studies, the chilled solutions can extend the survivability of the hair graft for at least two extra hours before facing significant damage.
Storage Solution Additives
Researchers are continuously devising new ways to increase the length of survivability for hair grafts. One such method is to add components to the storage solution that can be utilized by the graft while awaiting transplantation. These additives include:
- Allopurinol – this reduces the toxic buildup of uric acid, which can occur when the ADP process is disrupted, and damage the graft.
- Nitric oxide inhibitors
- Arachidonic acid inhibitors
- Adenosine triphosphate
- Amino acids
Many beneficial additives are used in HypoThermosol, which is what separates it from traditional storage solutions.