Robotic Hair transplant (ARTAS system) – a breakthrough in hair restoration surgery, is in simple words, Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) carried out by a robot/machine. The system relies on algorithms to identify hair ideal for transplant and with advanced technology predetermines the recipient site. Before we discuss how it is different from the traditional FUE let us first throw some light on how the system works.
How It Works
ARTAS is a computer-assisted, physician controlled system that automates the FUE method of hair transplantation. The procedure involves attaching a digital imaging device to the donor site of the patient’s scalp, and then mapping and relaying the image to a bigger screen. The system then makes use of algorithms to identify follicular units based on their individual characteristics. Once the exact location of each unit is pointed out, a graft is prepared for harvesting.
A robotic arm equipped with a needle extracts the graft and once done, it rescans the donor site for the next extraction. The technology has gained immense popularity over the years and the growing interest in it is mainly because of the benefits it offers;
- Minimally invasive
- Less discomfort
- More precise and quicker extractions
- Quicker return to normal life
- Reduced risk of human errors like mishandling
- No fatigue
- Takes care of the technical challenges physicians are fazed by.
Undoubtedly, the minimally invasive procedure offers a great amount of precision and speed; however, there are certain drawbacks that one should consider before deciding to go for it.
While there may not be much difference in the final outcome of both the procedures (Robotic hair transplant and the traditional FUE), there is certainly quite a lot of difference in the cost. The Robotic transplant is heavier on the pocket, as compared to the manual FUE procedure.
The final cost of the procedure still, is determined by factors such as the amount of hair loss, its progression, and the number of grafts required.
Limited Region for Hair Extraction
While ARTAS may be able to take into account hair follicle features like angle, direction, orientation, distribution, and density in order to identify the ideal candidate, it still struggles to pull out hair from limited regions of the head. The ARTAS machine works in small blocks and does not do a very good job with the curved features of the human scalp. Therefore, it’s necessary to reposition the machine several times. Sometimes, surgeons even use ARTAS for a small portion of the procedure and then do the more difficult portions manually.
Bigger gauge needle
The needle used during a Robotic hair transplant is around 1-1.2mm gauge needle, bigger than some used in manual FUE. Also, its approach of a two-step punch (the inner punch scores the skin, the outer punch dissects follicular units from the surrounding tissue) increases the size of the punches and limits the quantity of hair from the donor area.
This is one of the major downsides of the robotic procedure since this directly affects the healing rate and occurrence of complications. In simple words, a smaller needle means lesser infliction of trauma to the tissues in the recipient site, lesser visible scarring, and eventually quicker healing.
A highly skilled surgeon, on the other hand, is able to pinpoint the target site with great precision with a small gauge needle, thus saving the surrounding hair follicles from the damage as well. While this may not be a concern for those who have big patches of hair loss, it is of great value for those who still have a fair quantity of hair in the area surrounding the region that needs to be treated.
Not All Candidates are Ideal
The imaging technology of the ARTAS currently works well on people with dark and straight hair only. FDA still hasn’t approved ARTAS for female patients, people with curly hair or light hair.
The mapping camera is fairly large, requiring the patient to sit in a prone position with their head strapped down. The position becomes pretty uncomfortable if maintained for hours.
A Tool Is Only As Good As The Hands That Wield It
No matter how sophisticated the entire procedure becomes, it still cannot replace the knowledge, expertise, and skills of a surgeon. While it is an incontrovertible fact, that with ARTAS even a less experienced healthcare professional or a neophyte surgeon may be able to carry out the procedure, one still needs to remember that when it comes to surgery, we need to look beyond technology being offered, because in the end, robots are merely tools that offer assistance and they’re programmed and controlled by humans.
For natural-looking results, there are constant readjustments that need to be made during the procedure, which can only be assessed by an expert and not a robot.
In a nutshell, It is true that ARTAS is an excellent FUE tool, that offers a great deal of precision, speed and amazing results, however, it is also true that no matter how advanced and independent the system becomes, it still requires an experienced, skilled and trained surgeon to deliver the stellar results it promises.