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 ARTAS® robotic hair transplant.
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 ARTAS?
A robotic hair transplant or the ARTAS system is exactly what it sounds like. It is the follicular unit extraction (FUE) method of hair transplantation but performed by a robot instead of a physician. The extraction and implantation of hair follicles are done by a robot, even though a surgeon may be present when the operation takes place.
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’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. Still, the total surgical time is the same as classic FUE, which is around 5-7 hours.
It is also said that the machine can identify the healthiest follicles from the donor area and use those for implantation. The patient must have a healthy donor area to undergo this surgery.
While the extraction is going on, the ARTAS technology can also simultaneously, precisely and accurately implant the grafts in the donor region. This isn’t the only stage of the surgery in which this robot is involved. Even before you proceed with the surgery, 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.
To avoid pain, the patient is given anaesthesia when undergoing a robotic hair transplant. A skin surface tensioner will be placed on the head around the donor area to ensure that follicles are easily accessible. After that, a robotic arm will use small dermal punches to remove individual hair follicles.
Robotic Hair Transplant vs FUE: Is One Better Than The Other?
Let’s compare the two to find out if one is superior to the other.
Even though the ARTAS system 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.
ARTAS can cost you anywhere between £5,000-14,000, while an FUE hair transplant will only cost you £1,500 for the same results. Therefore, a robotic hair transplant is almost 4 times as expensive as a traditional FUE.
Hair Graft Survival Rate
Since ARTAS is able to choose the healthiest donor area hair follicles while ensuring a lower transection rate, it is possible for it to ensure a high graft survival rate. However, with FUE hair transplant, too, the hair graft survival rate is very high, around 95%.
The marketing for 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. 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.
If you’re having a robotic hair transplant, you’d think that visibility won’t be a problem with a robot since it’s performing an image-guided surgery. However, with ARTAS too, you need to shave your head in order to get the surgery. This may always be the case. If you’re getting a transplant through a surgeon, though, there’s the option of getting an unshaven FUE hair transplant in cases where the balding area is not as large and not many hair grafts are needed.
Some of the side effects of robotic hair transplant include:
- Scalp tightness
- Nerve damage
- Formation of cysts
If performed by an experienced surgeon, you should only temporarily experience swelling, bleeding, numbness, redness, pain, etc, with FUE. The risk of infection with this surgery increases if the patient does not follow the aftercare instructions.
As mentioned above, the robotic hair transplant has FDA approval for male androgenetic alopecia 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 FUE surgery.
Supervision By Surgeon
Although it is made to look like that ARTAS can do it all on its own, a surgeon is still involved in the supervision of the surgery. It is quite possible that you end up with poor results because of this hair transplant. It has that capacity. However, with it, you wouldn’t be ever able to tell whether it’s good or not.
To find an experienced human surgeon, you can look at their credentials, qualifications and experience to make an informed decision. This will not be the case with ARTAS. Even though the words “precise and accurate” are commonly mentioned with ARTAS, it can make mistakes and lead to poor results. If you do choose to go with it, make sure that the supervising surgeon is skilled enough to operate this machinery to achieve the results that you want.
Even though ARTAS can extract thousands of hair grafts in one hour, it still doesn’t mean that you can achieve high hair density in just one session with this robot. There are people out there who have had multiple procedures using ARTAS to achieve high hair density.
Of course, these can be spaced apart by a few years. Again, you may across a similar situation with classic FUE. If the patient wants to have a higher density in balding areas and have enough donor hair for it, they can get another surgery.
ARTAS vs NeoGraft: Which One Is Better?
The above comparison between robotic and human hair transplants doesn’t show many differences between them. The only thing separating them apart is the huge price difference. However, between two robots, which one’s better?
With NeoGraft, you have the drawback that almost anyone can use the device to perform the surgery. That risks complications due to the inexperience of the operator and any other human error that can arise from its use. As far as ARTAS is concerned, that may not be that big of an issue as long as a surgeon is supervising the whole procedure.
NeoGraft’s process of handling hair grafts can affect their overall survival rate, while with ARTAS, you don’t usually have to worry about this since it is more “precise.” NeoGraft and ARTAS can both end up costing you quite a lot. While the starting price of ARTAS may be lower, there are a lot of factors that can cause variations in the overall price.
To Sum Up
Essentially ARTAS 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 scarring, recovery, graft survival, surgical time and overall results.
With ARTAS, though, you may end up experiencing more side effects. In addition, it’s only suitable for certain hair types and alopecia. At the end of the day, it does need to be supervised. That’s because robots are not able to make judgement 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 is almost four times more than a traditional follicular unit extraction. And for those people who need to get more than one hair transplant surgery, the cost can be impossible to bear. That’s why a classic FUE is much better than ARTAS in many, many aspects.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.