Bay Area Hair Surgeon, Dr. Sara Wasserbauer participates in FDA trials of ARTAS Robotic Hair Transplant device.
Hair transplantation has been evolving over the past decade. Many patients are coming to realize that the old vision of a used-car salesman with plugs and a comb-over no longer accurately describe most hair transplant patients. As a matter of fact, you would be hard-pressed to TELL that someone has had a hair restoration these days (and take it from a hair surgeon, just about everyone you can think of HAS). About the only telltale sign left of this near-perfectly natural procedure has been the fine linear scar at the back of a patient’s head. Even these scars have been getting more and more invisible with trichophytic (Greek translation: “hair-loving”) incisions and sub-cuticular (aka Sub-Q) closures allowing patients to shave their head as close as a #3 on a pair of clippers with no visible signs of surgery.
But what about those who want to completely shave their head? I mean, what about those patients who want to “Bic-it?”
Hope For Invisible Scars
Several years ago, a company called Restoration Robotics approached me. They were interested in conducting some clinical trials with a new device they were developing that would automate the hair transplant technique known as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). The manual FUE method of obtaining hair grafts for transplantation was achieving less visible scarring, but now with faster speeds and lower transection rates, making it a viable alternative to the traditional “strip” method. It was also a preferred method for patients since the donor area would heal in 3-5 days without stitches. However, because it was still so time-consuming (and fatiguing) for the surgeon to perform, and because the learning curve for a physician to become proficient at it was steep (that is to say the risk of damaging the hair of the patient while the doc was learning was high), few doctors were offering these surgeries to their patients.
Enter the “Hair Transplant Robot.” This machine would automate the process so that physicians could perform FUE with little to no learning curve. It would also solve the problem of physician fatigue (just imagine trying to extract one hair at a time from a patient’s head upwards of 1500 times in a single day). Now it would be possible for a hair surgeon with skill in designing natural hairlines or other hair patterns to obtain hair for transplantation with little to no scarring and low transection rates. And, if a patient had always wanted a particular hair surgeon to perform their surgery but the surgeon did not offer FUE, this technique would now be available.
The Proof Is In The Hairy Pudding
So now, after years of clinical trials and a grueling FDA approval process, this machine is finally available for clinical use. The hair that is transplanted grows at the same rate as hair that is manually harvested with the FUE technique. The transection rates are consistently low, in the 8% range which is comparable or sometimes better than when these surgeries are done manually. Most importantly for patients – the healing time is reduced and this minimally invasive surgery leaves only tiny scars (typically less than a millimeter in diameter where each graft is taken) scattered across the donor area.
Am I A Potential Patient?
Good candidates for this technique have straight, preferably darker hair (curly hair tends to result in higher than acceptable transection rates) and a realistic expectation about what hair restoration surgery can do for them. You must also be willing to shave the back and sides of your heads in order to have the procedure performed.
Who Should Avoid FUE?
If you are prone to excessive scarring, have very curly hair, or think that this will stop all your hair loss, other treatments or surgical techniques are likely to work better for you. For instance, Propecia and Rogaine are two clinically proven hair therapies that work particularly well together and can all but halt the progress of hair loss in many men and some women. No hair loss treatment is a panacea, and no single treatment cures all baldness, but if you have been waiting for the right treatment to help your baldness, robotic hair restoration may be just the ticket.