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Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and Dr. Bernstein Discuss the Latest Advances in Robotic Hair Transplants
Dr. Andrew Ordon — Emmy-nominated co-host of the award-winning talk show “The Doctors” — and Dr. Robert Bernstein met at Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration in New York City on March 3, 2016 to discuss the latest advances in robotic hair transplantation.
Dr. Bernstein appeared as a guest on The Bald Truth, where he was interviewed by Spencer Kobren, the show’s host, about the ARTAS® Robotic System for FUE hair transplant surgery and the latest updates to the robotic system. He also discussed increasing demand for both FUE procedures and hair transplants, in general, around the world.
Dr. Bernstein was quoted in a New York Post article on the growing popularity of surgical hair restoration. In the article, Dr. Bernstein explained how celebrity hair transplants have become a driving factor behind the fading of the decades-long stigma of hair transplants.
On being chosen for his sixteenth consecutive ‘Best Doctors’ issue, Dr. Bernstein said: “I am honored to be considered among the best doctors in New York and it is a credit to the hardworking staff at Bernstein Medical that, after two decades of incredible progress, we are still making significant advances in the surgical treatment of hair loss.”
Recognition of Dr. Bernstein and his contributions to the field of surgical hair restoration comes as he continues to push the envelope with advances in Robotic FUE hair transplants, improving more traditional hair restoration techniques and exploring adjuvant treatments such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP).
Q: What is the main difference between hair transplants using the robot versus other procedures?
A: There are two basic types of hair transplant procedures, Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT or strip surgery) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). In FUT, donor hair is harvested by removing a long thin strip from the back of the scalp. Individual follicular units are then obtained from this strip using stereo-microscopic dissection. In FUE, individual follicular units are harvested directly from the donor area using a sharp, round cutting instrument. The ARTAS Robotic System performs the follicular unit isolation step of an FUE procedure and can also create recipient sites according to specifications determined by the hair restoration surgeon. In performing each of these steps, the robot uses its image-guided technology to locate the next target and position the cutting instrument, and it does so with precision and speed that cannot be accomplished using manual FUE techniques or instruments.
Q: I have been reading about Robotic FUE and have seen some photos on your website of you operating the ARTAS robot using what looks like a remote control. What is that thing and how does it control the robot?
A: The ARTAS robot uses a dual operating system when performing follicular unit extraction. One station consists of a desktop computer adjacent to the robot. This station is used to establish the basic parameters of the transplant such as the spacing of grafts, the angle and depth of the harvest, which size follicular units will be targeted, and a host of other important variables.
The hand-held pendant is used by the operator situated next to the patient. The remote has more limited options – the main ones being depth adjustment and to immediately suspend the action of the robot. Many of the parameters are determined automatically by the robot’s computer to maximize the accuracy of the harvesting. The robot also makes real-time adjustments to these variables during the hair restoration procedure.
The physician sets the parameters at the computer monitor and, once the settings are determined, he/she sets the tensioner grid on the patient’s scalp. The tensioner determines where the grafts will be harvested. The grid is moved approximately every 130 harvests. The robot can be operated at the computer terminal and through a mobile pendant. The physician often alternates with a trained assistant between that station and using the pendant.
Besides the involvement in the operation of the robot, there are many other important physician-dependent steps to the hair transplant including the planning and design of the procedure, and recipient site creation. Other steps, such as the microscopic sorting and trimming of harvested follicular unit grafts and graft placement, are often performed by trained staff, but require the physician’s close supervision.
Dr. Robert M. Bernstein introduced a new capability of the ARTAS® robotic system, “Follicular Unit Graft Selection,” at the ARTAS User Group Meeting on February 6-7, 2015 in Newport Coast, CA. He presented the new technology and the preliminary results of a bilateral pilot study of the technique conducted at Bernstein Medical.
How Does the ARTAS System, or the Surgeon, Determine the Depth of the Incision, and Can it be Adjusted During Surgery?
Q: How does the ARTAS robot control the depth of the incision in Robotic FUE?
A: The ARTAS robotic system is equipped with advanced sensors that determine the precise depth of the sharp and blunt needles used both in the graft harvesting step and for recipient site creation. The robot automatically adjusts to the precise depth needed for the non-traumatic extraction of the grafts. The tip of the punching mechanism contains depth markings so that the physician can visually override the punch when he wants to fine-tune its action. While monitoring the procedure in real time, if it is observed that the punches are too superficial or too deep, punch depth can be modified using the robot’s computer system.
The physician can also use the ARTAS system to precisely control the depth of recipient sites. As with harvesting, the robot automatically adjusts the depth based on parameters set by the physician and the doctor can then make further adjustments, in real-time, during the procedure.
Q: Does Follicular Unit Extraction performed by a robot hurt more than regular FUE? — R.T., Greenwich, CT
A: As with manual FUE, robotic FUE hair transplantation is an outpatient procedure performed under long-acting local anesthesia – a combination of lidocaine and bupivacaine. After the initial injections, the patient does not experience any pain or discomfort.
Before starting local anesthesia, we give most patients oral valium and intra-muscular midazolam (a very fast acting sedative that is very relaxing). While some patients doze off at the beginning of the procedure, others prefer to watch TV, a film, or just chat.
Local anesthesia generally wears off after 4-5 hours, so for transplant sessions lasting longer than this, we will give more anesthesia before the first wears off. With Robotic FUE, there is no discomfort once the procedure is completed and the anesthesia wears off. This is in stark contrast to an FUT strip procedure which can be uncomfortable in the donor area for days to weeks.
Restoration Robotics, the company that developed the ARTAS® Robotic Hair Transplant system, has published a white paper case study on how Dr. Bernstein utilizes the robotic system’s tools to minimize scarring after Robotic FUE.
The case study illustrated that the ARTAS Robotic Hair Transplant system’s suite of tools can minimize the detectability of scars after an FUE hair transplant.