When the Silicon Valley company Restoration Robotics, Inc. introduced the ARTAS® Robotic System in 2012, the company was very selective about awarding contracts for use of the revolutionary hair transplant technology. Hair restoration surgeons across the country participated in a rigorous interview process, and only a handful of highly successful practices were chosen to receive a coveted ARTAS® surgical robot. And it's really no surprise that metro Atlanta's own Anderson Center for Hair was one of those notable practices.
"The introduction of the ARTAS® robot was a technological quantum leap forward in the field of hair restoration surgery," says Ken Anderson, MD, founder and director of the Anderson Center for Hair. "We were honored to receive Georgia's first and only ARTAS® Robotic Hair Transplant System in 2013. My center was chosen for several reasons, primarily because of my long-standing track record of success in Atlanta, as well as our boutique-style practice that is 100% dedicated to treating hair loss in both men and women. This is a world-class facility, the most prominent in the Southeast United States, and I know that Restoration Robotics felt comfortable placing one of their robots in my practice to lead the way in this region of the country."
That is exactly what Anderson and his staff of highly trained surgical technicians have done since completing Georgia's first ARTAS® robotic hair transplant surgery on September 4, 2013. People from around the world now travel to Georgia to visit the Anderson Center for Hair, which remains the only practice in the state to offer ARTAS® robot-assisted hair restoration surgery. What's more, Dr. Anderson, who is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and renowned lecturer, has amassed an impressive list of accolades in the last few years alone, including the 2015 National Doctors' Choice Award for Plastic Surgery, and the 2015 Real Self Top 500 Award. He also was recognized as a Castle Connelly Top Doctor, and admitted to the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons, a group that has admitted less than 70 hair transplant physicians worldwide.
"I'm the only facial plastic surgeon in the world who has exclusively practiced hair restoration surgery for over a decade," Anderson explains. "People are reluctant to come to a doctor for hair restoration surgery because they're afraid of bad hair transplant jobs. But this is not your father's hair surgery. These are not hair plugs. It's a hair-by-hair transplant, and looks completely natural because it is. During private consultations I personally show patients how we apply traditional medical principles and today's technology to hair restoration surgery."
Anderson employs the non-invasive Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) method; it involves removing hairs from the back of the head, which are immune to hormones that cause balding, and placing them into sites on top of the head, where those permanent hairs will continue to grow as if they are still in the permanent hair zone. The challenge is not only to make sure that the relocated hair looks completely natural, but also that any scars on the back of the head are virtually undetectable. The ARTAS® Robotic System allows Anderson and his team to achieve that goal. Here, Anderson answers some of the most common questions about robot-assisted hair restoration surgery and the technology that continues to change the industry.
Q: How does the ARTAS Robotic System work?
A: The ARTAS® robot features a six-jointed robotic arm with two stereoscopic cameras. It can "see" each individual hair follicle because of the two cameras and determine the exact angle of that hair follicle down to a fraction of a millimeter. Using complex computer algorithms and robotic precision, it removes one follicle at a time using a 0.80 millimeter punch—without touching any of the surrounding hairs.
Q: What are the main benefits of using the ARTAS Robotic System?
A: Compared to a traditional, linear hair extraction with a scalpel, robot-assisted hair restoration surgery is less painful and offers a quicker recovery time. Additionally, when the individual follicles are removed, we want to minimize the look of dimples on the extraction site. The 0.80 millimeter punch creates a very small hole, and those little holes heal right up with virtually undetectable scarring. And because there is no linear scarring, which is a telltale sign of traditional hair restoration surgery, it allows clients to have short haircuts. The option for wearing short haircuts is very appealing to those who just don't want to worry about a linear scar ever being seen on their heads or in their hair.
Also important is the robot's speed and efficiency. When the hair follicles are removed, they are put in a dish for preparation under special microscopes. We definitely want to limit the amount of time that the follicles spend in the holding solution. This is because as the follicles have been removed from the scalp they have no blood supply while in the dish awaiting implantation they are technically slowly perishing. We need to be able to get the follicles out and placed quickly. That efficiency means better growth rates because the grafts survive better with the robot assistance.
Q: Is the follicle extraction an automatic process with the ARTAS robot?
A: There are several machines that can do the FUE method, and the common thread with those is that they are handheld instruments. The ARTAS® is not handheld, but it is not like a carwash. We don't just set it and go. It is a complex tool, and what's important is how the tool is used. It requires a human to use it. I work the robot, and I watch every single extraction as it is done to ensure the best possible results for my patients.
Q: Does the ARTAS Robotic System also place the hair follicle back into the scalp?
A: No. The implantation is handled by me and our team of highly trained surgical technicians. Once the follicles are harvested, the grafts have to be prepared for implantation with a human touch. The surgical team trims and prepares each follicle, and I make the implantation sites personally. It's the most artistically demanding portion of a hair transplant procedure: creating the implantation sites in such a way so that the hair looks as though it has always been there, and not like some person or robot has surgically placed it there.
Q: How much pain or discomfort can be expected during a robot-assisted hair restoration surgery?
A: Very little. Every single patient is surprised how painless the entire process is. Of course, we numb the areas where the hair follicles are extracted and placed. And patients are sedated during the surgery. But overall, it's not a painful process. Many patients say that, after a procedure, it feels like a mild sunburn. Many have mentioned to me that the entire process is less intense than having your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist.
Q: How expensive is a robot-assisted hair restoration surgery?
A: It is an investment, but results in a lifetime of new hair. Typically, clients can expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000. And it is a worthwhile investment. There is a real psychology to hair loss. We all have hair, and when it's lost, it's distressing—for both men and women. Getting that hair back is transformational.
Q: What will my experience be like at the Anderson Center for Hair?
A: We are one of the world's premier boutique centers for hair restoration. We are a world-class center that is specifically for people with hair loss. I do all of the consultations personally, and we offer a very comfortable environment in a private facility. No patients meet face-to-face, and we only do one procedure per day. That way we can dedicate all of our time and effort to each particular case.
It's 2016, and the technology that allows this type of procedure to be done is here. Hair restoration is a very natural cosmetic procedure. And once you have it done, you're going to feel great about yourself.
In the next six to eight months, the Anderson Center for Hair will expand to include a second ARTAS® robot system here in Atlanta. For more information about robot-assisted hair restoration surgery, call 404-256-4247 or visit www.atlantahairsurgeon.com.