ARTAS Hair Transplant Robot vs Dr. Jones’ FUE Technique
Restoration Robotics, a company founded by Dr. Frederick H. Moll, developed the ARTAS System. This completely automated machine is the first robot designed to carry out the scoring aspect of the FUE hair transplant procedure.
HOW ARTAS WORKS: THE MECHANICS
Cameras, colour identification sensors, and 3-D imaging software guide the robotic arm of ARTAS in selecting which follicles to score. To carry out the rest of the FUE process, ARTAS employs a needle punch mechanism, disposable dermal punches, disposable cartridges, a video imaging system and a user interface.
The patient is positioned for the robot to punch out the grafts on a donor area of roughly 5 to 10cm at a time. During this time, the patient must remain absolutely still as the head is restrained by straps. After this, the surgeon removes each graft by hand with a pair of forceps. The patient is then repositioned for ARTAS to work on a new section of donor hair. This process continues until the extraction portion of surgery is complete. The implantation of grafts to the bald area is done using a traditional transplant approach.
POTENTIAL PROS OF ARTAS
The thought of a machine extracting FUE grafts is an attractive one if the machine can replicate the touch of an expert human practitioner, and if it can boost the speed of the extraction process.
It is the opinion of Dr. Jones that this robot may work for doctors who wish to provide Follicular Unit Extraction, but don’t have the experience to do it manually or with a power punch.
CONS OF ARTAS OVER DR. JONES’ FUE TECHNIQUE
1. Higher Transection Rate. The Artas Robot has a transection rate (destroyed grafts) of 8 to 10%. Dr. Jones’ transection rate is 3 to 5%. Artas charges the doctor for all of the destroyed grafts as well as the viable grafts, so many doctors plant these destroyed grafts knowing they won’t grow. Dr. Jones only charges for and plants viable grafts.
2. Slower Rate of Extraction. The Robot currently extracts at about 600 grafts per hour, where Dr. Jones is able to extract 1500 to 2000 grafts per hour, enabling him to do 3000 and even 4000 graft sessions in a single day.
3. Larger Punch. The Artas system uses a punch with a diameter of 1.65 mm, and Dr. Jones uses punches from .7 to .9 mm. A smaller punch means faster healing of the donor area and there is less likely to be damage to surrounding grafts.
4. More Likelihood of Buried Grafts. The Artas robot uses a dull punch system, which has been shown to be more likely to bury some of the grafts and cause cyst formation.
5. A Robot Cannot Select Grafts for an Individual Patient. Any automated device will still have limitations in discerning the best follicle for extraction. For example, it is important to select donor hairs with a specific hairline or eyebrow design in mind. It is difficult for a machine to do this, where Dr. Jones can pick and choose different size grafts depending on the patient’s needs.
6. Limited Donor Site. The Artas System is limited to areas that the square device can fit on (i.e. a strip around the back of the head). Dr. Jones is able to extract from all permanent areas, including the sideburns, the beard, or any area of the body he chooses.
7. The Need to Shave the Head. With the Artas system, the physician has to shave the patient’s head, where Dr. Jones can perform FUE without shaving.
8. Limited Hair Characteristics. ARTAS is only approved for use on patients with straight hair that is dark brown or black in colour. Dr. Jones can perform FUE on any hair colour or texture.
At this point, Dr. Jones feels that the only advantage of the Artas Robot for an experienced FUE surgeon is a marketing one. It is slower, has a higher transection rate, is more expensive and has less choice of areas from which the grafts can be extracted.