Robotic Hair Transplant Surgery: How it Works

Obvious-looking hair plugs are thankfully a thing of the past. Over the past five years hair restoration surgery has improved vastly and as a result it has become an incredibly popular procedure. Much of this is owing to transplant techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated and technology playing a greater role. The latest hair transplant technique is called follicular unit extraction (FUE). Unlike the traditional technique, known as follicular unit transplant (FUT) or strip harvesting, involving removing a strip of the scalp where follicles are plentiful, with FUE each follicular unit is removed one at a time. While FUE avoids the linear scar from the donor site and allows for a quicker recovery period, it is a more time consuming process with some procedures lasting up to eight hours, which can cause fatigue in the most experienced surgeons. Luckily there’s now a robot that can extract the hair for the surgeon.

Developed by Restoration Robotics, Inc. the ARTAS device is a robotic surgical hair transplantation system which speeds up follicular unit extraction (FUE) by using advanced algorithms to locate the most viable hairs for transplantation. Once hair in the donor area at the back of the scalp has been trimmed to make the follicles easier to identify and extract, a local anesthetic is administered and a device which applies tension to the scalp is placed on the head to hold skin securely in place. Multiple cameras then capture video images of the donor site and the algorithms identify the exit angles and density of each of the follicles. The best hairs for the transplant are then selected and removed using a 1mm dermal punch. During this process the surgeon and a technician can make adjustments so that hairs are harvested in a way that preserves the natural look of the donor site. After the follicular units have been dissected, the surgeon will then transplant them into the patient's recipient area manually.

The minimally invasive technique has a number of benefits but it can only be used on men with straight black or brown hair and patients with curly or lighter colored hair are not suitable candidates for the procedure. A good candidate will be in good health, with moderate hair loss and ample donor hair at the back of the scalp, where hair is not affected by the hormone that causes male pattern baldness. As with non-robotic FUE surgery, patients can return to work and social activity from around 2 to 5 days after the transplant. By this point the swelling will have subsided but there are usually visible scabs and redness at the recipient sites which will usually subside around 10 to 14 days after the procedure. The transplanted hair will fall out within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. This is completely normal and not a sign that the operation has failed. Patients should start to notice new growth within a few months. Specialists deem a transplant successful when 85 to 95 percent of transplanted roots grow new hair.

Advantages of the robotic FUE method include reduced harvesting time, increased accuracy of graft harvesting, and increased survival of harvested follicular units, however, the overall outcome will depend on the ability of the physician performing the treatment. The best results will only be achieved when a highly experienced hair transplant surgeon performs the procedure.

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