With the constant evolution of medical technologies, you’re bound to see the greater integration of artificial intelligence, whether inside or outside an operation theatre. One such leap has been the robotic hair transplant, which can be seen in systems like ARTAS® and HARRTS.
While much has been said about this technology, it can’t be said for sure if it’s truly better than a manual FUE performed by a surgeon. To better understand “why,” let’s first find out how this technology works and what it claims to do.
What Is Robotic Hair Transplantation?
The extraction and implantation of hair follicles are done by a robot, even though a surgeon may be present when the operation takes place. The system may also be managed by technicians in some parts of the surgery.
How Is Robotic Hair Transplantation Done?
First, the surgeon or the robot will draw your new hairline. For instance, ARTAS uses a 3D imaging system to draw the hairline of the patient so that they can preview the results of the surgery and know what to expect.
For your robotic FUE hair transplant, your donor area will have to be shaved. You might have the option to leave the balding areas unshaven. Following that, local anaesthesia will be administered so you don’t feel any pain. The surgery itself will take place in 2 steps:
- Extraction – A robotic arm will use small dermal punches to remove individual hair follicles. In ARTAS, the system can analyse the angles at which the hair follicles are exiting the scalp to extract with precision. However, these extractions may have to be approved first.
- Implantation – After the grafts have been harvested (usually by technicians), either the surgeon or the robot creates small incisions in the recipient areas and implants grafts in them. ARTAS can create incisions and implant grafts simultaneously, which is not done in manual FUE.
Even though a robotic hair transplant may make it sound like there’s no need for a surgeon to be involved, it definitely isn’t the case.
However, because patients might assume this to be the case, a robotic hair transplant has the potential to become more focused on only technicians handling different steps of the surgery. So, make sure to be clear with the clinic about who will be involved in which parts of the surgery.
What Are The Robotic Hair Transplant Surgery Types?
While robotic hair transplant is generally taken to mean ARTAS, there are other types of this surgery as well, such as:
ARTAS Restoration Robotics
It’s artificial intelligence, image-guided surgery in which the robot can extract more than a thousand hair follicles from the donor area in an hour.
It is FDA-approved for the placement of hair transplants in males with straight, black or brown hair who suffer from androgenetic alopecia. That means that not everyone is a suitable candidate for a robotic hair transplant.
It is also said that the machine can identify the healthiest follicles from the donor area and use those for implantation. But, of course, the patient must have a healthy donor area to undergo this surgery.
Standing for “Human Assisted Rapid Robotic Transplant System” or HARRTS is a device that also uses robotics and artificial intelligence to assist in the planning, extraction and implantation of hair grafts.
It comes with a simulation tool which helps surgeons in determining the number of grafts and areas in which the grafts need to be implanted. For the patient, it has the advantage of showing a visual of what the results might look like.
During surgery, it doesn’t automatically remove grafts like ARTAS instead, an automated handheld device is used by the medical staff to both cut into the skin around the graft and take it out.
There are even cold storage containers in the HARRTS system, which according to manufacturers, is meant to ensure better survival of the grafts by preventing them from drying out.
Afterwards, the implantation is also done by the surgeon using special implanter pens (like a robotic DHI hair transplant), while the system guides the surgeon on which grafts (the number of hairs they have from 1-4) will be best suited for a particular area.
Like ARTAS, NeoGraft is also a product of Venus and while some clinics market it as a robotic hair transplant, it’s not exactly one.
That’s because, unlike ARTAS, it comes with handheld devices that need to be used by surgeons to extract grafts, create incisions in balding areas and implant grafts into them. A Neograft hair transplant is “automated,” which is not the same as being done entirely by robots.
What Are The Side Effects Of Robotic Hair Transplant?
Some of the side effects of robotic hair transplant may include:
- Scalp tightness
- Nerve damage
- Formation of cysts
What Is The Cost Of Robotic Hair Transplantation?
In the UK, a robotic FUE hair transplant cost might be somewhere around £5,000 to even £10,000+. The machinery of these surgeries can be very expensive, and because of that, the cost of the surgery can go up.
But it can depend on where the clinic is located, how experienced your surgeon is, how expensive the machinery is and the number of grafts you need. In the US, an ARTAS robotic hair transplant cost may go as high as $20,000.
Compared to the UK or the US, you may be able to get a cheaper robotic hair transplant in Turkey. Turkey robotic hair transplants are offered by some clinics, but make sure to ask them who will be involved in the surgery.
What Are The Advantages Of Robotic Hair Transplant?
A robotic hair transplant may have the following advantages:
Makes Surgery Less Laborious
Although a hair transplant is minimally invasive, it’s a physically demanding surgery that takes about 6-8 hours. Of course, the surgery isn’t entirely done by the surgeon as there are assistants to help them. Even so, it can be quite exacting. In this way, a robot’s assistance can be helpful.
Good Handling Of Grafts
Some robotic hair transplants come with systems that ensure careful handling and even storage of the grafts to ensure less trauma to them. For instance, NeoGraft has a no-touch implanter pen and HARRTS has storage containers. This can lead to better yield and results.
What Are The Disadvantages of Robotic Hair Transplant?
There are a few disadvantages of robotic hair transplant as well, which are as follows:
Doesn’t Account For The Patient’s Unique Anatomy
Robotic hair transplants can come in different settings, but their responses are standardised. For instance, depending on the size of the graft, a surgeon can choose different punch sizes for extraction. But you might not have that option when working with a robot.
Similarly, the thickness of the skin of the scalp can vary across different regions (for example, it’s thicker in the crown). Seeing and knowing that a surgeon will likely adjust the pressure of the extraction tool, which might not be something that a robot could do.
Smaller Donor Area
In ARTAS, a small square is placed at the back of the head and that is where the robot extracts the grafts from. This, of course, limits the area and the number of grafts that can be extracted. That, in turn, can mean low hair density for the patient. Also, keep in mind that if too many grafts are extracted from the same area, it can noticeably thin it out.
You can expect robotic hair transplants to be generally more expensive because of the machine itself. It can be in hundreds of thousands and because the clinic has to make up for that cost, your surgery will end up being more expensive.
A robotic FUE hair transplant in Turkey or anywhere else might not work on all hair types and colours. For instance, ARTAS has FDA approval for patients with black, brown straight hair. That excludes a lot of other people who also need hair transplant surgery.
Therefore, if you don’t have the hair for ARTAS, you’d have no choice but to get manual FUE surgery.
Robotic Hair Transplant vs FUE: Which Is Better?
Let’s compare the two to find out if one is superior to the other.
Even though a robotic system like ARTAS uses a robot to extract and implant the hair grafts more quickly and precisely, it still takes around the same time as a classic FUE surgery. ARTAS can be anywhere between 5-7 hours, while FUE can take anywhere between 6-8 hours for the entire surgery.
The cost of an ARTAS robotic hair transplant can be between £5,000-10,000 and more, while a traditional FUE hair transplant in Turkey will only cost you £1,500 for the same results. ARTAS robotic hair transplant in Turkey might end up costing you around £6,000 though.
The marketing for a robotic system like ARTAS usually includes the fact that it does not leave a “linear scar.” Linear scarring is something that happens in a FUT surgery because an entire strip is taken out from the scalp, which is then sewn back.
With FUE hair transplant, that hasn’t even been the case since the individual follicles are extracted directly from the scalp and not from an excised piece of skin. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about linear scarring with an FUE hair transplant either.
Since ARTAS uses the FUE technique for performing the surgery, hair growth takes place just as quickly as in traditional FUE surgery. And robotic hair transplant results aren’t much different. You might not even be able to tell a difference.
It can take around 6 months for you to see visible results with ARTAS, but you’d have to wait for a year to see the final results.
Similarly, in manual FUE, your hair will start growing 3-4 months after the surgery, and you’ll be able to see the final results after 12-18 months.
As mentioned above, the surgery takes place under local anaesthesia, just like traditional FUE, so you won’t feel any pain no matter the kind of surgery you’re undergoing.
Supervision By Surgeon
Although it is made to look like a robotic hair transplant surgery can do it all on its own, a surgeon is still involved in the supervision of the surgery. But some might exploit the “roboticness” of it to relegate the surgery to less experienced staff, which can leave you with poor results.
To Sum Up
Essentially robotic hair transplant performs FUE but with the help of a robot. Although it may be called a more “advanced” solution compared to classic FUE, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the two, especially in terms of the results. So, the answer to “Is robotic hair transplant better” is no, not really.
Although compared to manual FUE, robot hair transplants can have certain limitations. ARTAS robotic hair transplant is only suitable for certain hair types and alopecia. And at the end of the day, it does need to be supervised. That’s because robots are not able to make judgment calls like humans can. So, you’ll still need an experienced doctor to operate the device.
Because of the surgical equipment used for performing a robotic hair transplant, the cost of this surgery can be much higher than a traditional follicular unit extraction. Even a Turkey hair transplant robot surgery can be quite expensive. In any case, if you’re losing hair, make sure to consult a medical professional for a suitable treatment plan.
Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan