Advancements in Health Care and Medicine are growing at an extraordinary rate and unless you’ve been treated in a Hospital or Outpatient clinic, you are probably somewhat in the dark. Not only have drugs improved the quality of care and life, but so have the methods associated with surgical procedures. With the increase in computer power as well as instrumentation, procedures that were once done by hand, can now be assisted by advanced robotics.
The ARTAS® System for hair transplants was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2011. The NeoGraft procedure was approved in 2009 for FUE procedures as well, but it wasn’t until the ARTAS System was introduced that the industry was truly revolutionized regarding advanced robotics.
What is the ARTAS System?
The ARTAS System for hair transplants is a remarkable device which adds to and enhances the outcome of FUE transplants. I would recommend to anyone who is interested to view a video of the physical system and those who operate the Robot. Restoration Robotics Inc. who manufactures the ARTAS had done an exceptional job at creating a device which streamlines the FUE system and gives doctors, and additional assets in the war against hair loss. The company does offer a credentialing system for those physicians/clinics using the device. The categories are Bronze, Gold, Silver and Platinum.
The system involves not only the robotic transplant arm but software that digitally maps the donor areas looking for the best quality follicles and those with specific angles and direction. The same mapping is used for the balding implantation area so that a natural “pattern” is the outcome of the implanted follicles. Although it assists in mapping this area, the ARTAS system does not implant the hairs and is done manually by the surgeons. The software will build a 3D model through images and mapping which affords the surgeons and the patient a visual look of the result post-surgery even before the surgical procedure begins.
This software guarantees robotic accuracy with precision and reproducibility of the implanted hair. With a high-definition stereoscopic vision system, the software can analyze, monitor and track individual hairs at a rate of 60x per second. The ARTAS Artificial Intelligence™ algorithms make this whole procedure possible.
As a robotic system the ARTAS device never gets tired and doesn’t suffer from overwork. FUE transplantation is tedious work and with over 4000 grafts being removed and re-transplanted in a single day, it can be an exhaustive endeavor. ARTAS can harvest on average 1,000 grafts per hour with precision accuracy.
Another unique feature of the ARTAS is its use of a double punch technique in removing the grafts. The double-punch method uses an inner punch for the upper most part of the skin with the outer punch dissecting the follicular unit. This minimizes scaring as well as injury to the scalp. This is critical for those who decide to wear their hair short exposing the scalp. The needle punch has a larger diameter than in the Safe System manual device which in many cases is not popular with the surgeons.
Can the ARTAS System be used for women and other ethnicities?
When the ARTAS system was originally tested, the patients were Caucasian males with brown/dark and straight hair. As such the approval system from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) was for these types of patients and not anyone else. But as with many prescription medications and other surgical equipment, there is the ability for off-label use. In other words, it can be used on women and Afrocentric men and women.
While this might sound like “no big deal” it is for both the surgeon and patient. Men and women have different hair and follicles as do those other ethnicities. There is a different skillset needed for these procedures with different techniques involved. Those that perform these procedures have the proper experience and knowledge with these types of patients. It is essential that the clinic you choose has experience in these procedures and you are not the “guinea pig”.
What are the disadvantages of the ARTAS Hair Restoration System?
Maybe the word “disadvantage” is not accurate, but as with any medical technique, drug or system, there are realities which must be discussed. No system is perfect and without proper use and experience, unexpected issues do occur.
The first reality is that the ARTAS system is “dumb” and only does what it is programmed to do. It cannot think and will not try to solve an unexpected problem. Issues can and will occur during the procedure and the system must always be monitored for proper use. Over dependency on the system can lead to an improper hands-off approach and depletion of some basic skills. Only a skilled surgeon can detect specific subtleties in the follicle and/or scalp, which is something a programmed robot cannot do.
We have seen this occur in the aviation industry where the pilots become too dependent on the automated systems and lose some of their basic skills and intuition. In this case the result can be the loss of hundreds of lives and a reevaluation of the whole system. Most issues occur when there is an unforeseen problem, and if you do not have a skilled physician/surgeon then there will be problems which in some cases are permanent. Keeping with the aviation industry, surgeons, like many pilots do not like any type of advanced automation and would rather do their job using their experience and knowledge.
Unlike the ARTAS System another FUE device is the Safe System which is not robotic, although there is a hand-held device used in the procedure to assist the surgeon. This can be considered the “manual” approach to hair loss and the FUE treatment.
Another issue with the ARTAS system is the cost. Because a very expensive and highly technical machine is used, you are not only paying for the surgeon but the cost of the equipment. All things being equal, a hair transplant procedure with the ARTAS system will be approximately 50% more than the FUE Safe System. The question that needs to be answered: is if its worth the extra money? Read on and hopefully we will answer this for you.
Can you compare the manual FUE Safe System to the ARTAS system?
You could describe the comparison of these two procedures as automated vs. manual, although there is a bit more to it. Both procedures use the FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) system which extract individual or a group of follicles from an area of the scalp which are then implanted into the balding area.
The ARTAS system will use a scanning computer program to determine which follicles are the best candidates for extraction. On the other hand, those who use the Safe System will determine through analyses, experience and expertise as to which are the best follicles for harvesting. Both systems will then proceed with the process, although the manual Safe System procedure can be adjusted on the fly and reevaluated during the surgery.
The same can be said about the implantation stage of the procedure. With the ARTAS system the robot will implant the follicle after every extraction, meaning once the procedure begins, the robot will follow its original program. This also guarantees no waiting period for the follicles which can in some cases create issues.
Is the ARTAS System superior to the manual FUE system such as the Safe System?
One of the best answers to this question, and can apply to other industries, is that the ARTAS System is just a tool, which is only as good as the person who uses it. Of course, the ARTAS is more than just an inanimate object, and has precision technology behind its use. It never tires and is 100% focused on the job at hand. The weakness in the armor is that the skill and knowledge of the person operating it is translated into what this system will do. If you have an inexperienced doctor who relies too heavily on the system, then the results will show this.
Because of the technology used, the ARTAS is a bit more than an FUE procedure used with the aid of the Safe System. If cost is not an issue, then you must decide for yourself which procedure you feel more comfortable, and more importantly, the doctor who is performing the transplant. Both procedures offer fantastic results and can transform a person’s look into something which until a few years ago was not possible. It comes down to a matter of choice and preference, so I will leave you with an answer of undecided. As long as you have an experienced surgeon, you will be more than satisfied with the results.
Could the ARTAS hair transplant system be too far ahead of its time?
The FUE Safe System and the NeoGraft are both great systems and are the best options for those who qualify for a hair transplant. Of the two, I believe that e Safe System is the best of these two and provides a skilled surgeon the proper tool for the best results. The ARTAS system, although highly advanced and complex, is still not up to the job of a skilled surgeon with the right tool.
Many individuals, especially those in the U.S., believe that the ARTAS is the best for an FUE transplant. I attribute this to the unfounded belief that the more technical and advanced something is, the better the results. In many instances this is true, but in the highly competitive hair transplant industry this is not. The system still has a few flaws which need to be ironed out before it is the panacea which many people believe it to be.
The ARTAS system cannot implant the harvested hair which must be done by the surgeon manually. The punch is larger than those used in the manual procedures and can leave some scaring, although minimal. The Transection Rate (Failure to Grow) is between 8-10% for ARTAS and only 3-5% for the Safe System. Although a highly skilled surgeon can use the ARTAS for women and people other than Caucasian males with straight dark hair, it is a highly technical procedure which only a few surgeons can perform. The cost of the ARTAS vs the Safe System is very cost prohibitive. No doubt the ARTAS System is an evolution is hair transplants, but my belief is that it still has a way to go and needs more time to evolve.
The Hair Clinics in Budapest Hungary, where the cost is approximately 60% less expensive than in the UK, Ireland, Western Europe and the U.S.A, have been using the FUE Safe System for quite a while with fantastic results. These experienced and hand-on surgeons have perfected the manual process with results far exceeding the ARTAS System can provide.
Contacts us to discuss the options and you will quickly realize that a highly-skilled and expert surgeon can do things that the ARTAS System can only dream of doing.