What is ARTAS?
Developed by Restoration Robotics, ARTAS is the first robotic hair transplant system in the world. The FDA granted clearance in 2011, and at the time of this writing, over a hundred ARTAS units are being used by hair transplant clinics throughout in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. The technology is extremely new, and the Restoration Robotics is actively using feedback from each procedure to continuously update and refine the software on an ongoing basis.
How does ARTAS Work?
This specialized automated procedure works in the following way:
- A special algorithm first identifies and denotes the suitable hair follicles to be used for transplant (otherwise known as the donor hairs)
- A follicular unit can contain on average between one to four hairs. This highly complicated algorithm automatically selects follicular units that have at least two acceptable hair follicles. This maximizes the overall yield of donor hair.
- At the same time, the algorithm determines the absolute minimum distance between donor hair sites for extraction. This ensures that the available donor hairs are extracted as closely together as possible, thereby increasing the overall yield.
- At the same time, the algorithm determines the absolute minimum distance between donor hair sites for extraction to avoid over harvesting in any given region of the donor zone.
- Under the guidance of a physician, the ARTAS makes a circular punch. The physician removes the follicular unit manually.
- The physician analyses the grafts under a microscope to ensure that they are intact.
- The ARTAS machine uses an algorithm to determine the best locations for recipient sites.
- The physician manually inserts the follicular units as normal.
What are the Advantages of using the ARTAS System?
This method of hair restoration:
- Provides sustainable grafts – the site-mapping procedure leaves enough fatty tissue around each hair follicle to ensure that the hair will survive while preventing problematic complications such as ridging, pitting, and cobblestoning.
- Needs no stiches or sutures – as with all FUE procedures, the follicular units are extracted individually as opposed to removing a large donor strip and dissecting the follicular units individually. This lack of strip surgery also minimizes scarring, recovery time, and pain.
- No human fatigue – a physician will have to take breaks from time to time because the procedure is extremely labor-intensive. Robotic assistance can help relieve the physician of physical and mental exhaustion.
What are the Disadvantages of using the ARTAS System?
At the same time, this method of hair restoration can also:
- ARTAS currently cannot take follicular units from all regions of the traditional safe donor zone. In particular, it has problems with harvesting donor hair from the region known as the mastoid processes and below the occipital protuberance. These areas usually are addressed with hand held manual or motorized punches.
- The procedure introduces the perception of a level playing field in the eyes of the consumer. Why would any doctor be considered better than another if they are all using the same technology, in this case the ARTAS system? This makes it more difficult for some clinics to differentiate themselves from competitors and may lead many consumers to believe that all results will be the same regardless of whom the operator is. This is a false assumption due to the long list of additional factors that go into a successful hair transplant result.
The History and Future of ARTAS
In the early years, the ARTAS robot extracted donor hairs using a punch that many surgeons considered too large. Restoration Robotics has since managed to scale down the size of the punches, thereby increasing the graft’s overall survival rate. The robot was also very limited with the areas that it could extract follicular units as certain regions presented challenges with the acute angle in which hairs can grow in these regions. Many of the limitations that were experienced in the early days of the robot have been eliminated as now it is capable of graft extraction using punch diameters similar to traditional hand held manual punch practitioners use, such as .85mm and .9mm punches. Currently the ARTAS robotic system is evolving to the point that it can now make recipient site incisions which are then are filled by follicular units placed by hand.