Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Graft Transection Rate
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Dermatologic Surgery - December 2014A 2014 study in the journal Dermatologic Surgery measured follicular unit transection (follicle damage) during the extraction step of a robotic follicular unit extraction (R-FUE) procedure. The study found that robotic transection rates, using the ARTAS Robotic System, compared favorably with non-robotic (manual) FUE transection rates. ((Avram MR, Watkins SA. “Robotic follicular unit extraction in hair transplantation.” Dermatol Surg. 2014 Dec;40(12):1319-27))

The researchers found the average rate of transection over many robotic procedures to be 6.6%. This rate compared favorably to an average manual transection rate of 6.14% reported in a 2006 study ((Harris JA. “New methodology and instrumentation for follicular unit extraction: lower follicle transection rates and expanded patient candidacy.” Dermatol Surg. 2006;32:56–612.)) and was significantly lower than an average transection rate of 17.3% reported in 2008 study using manual techniques. ((Onda M, Igawa HH, Inoue K, Tanino R. “Novel technique of follicular unit extraction hair transplantation with a powered punching device.” Dermatol Surg. 2008;34:1683–8.))

While the study’s robotic FUE transection rates compared favorably to two reported manual transection rates, the authors stressed that more well-designed studies comparing robotic to manual FUE are needed.

The authors noted that “The main advantages of robotic FUE compared with the standard ellipse are its minimally invasive nature and the lack of a linear scar.”

This paper was reviewed by Dr. Bernstein. ((Bernstein RM. “Commentary on Robotic Follicular Unit Extraction in Hair Transplantation.” Dermatol Surg. 2015;41:279.))

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In a study ((Shin JW, Kwon SH, Kim SA, Kim JY, Na JI, Chan Park K, Huh CH. Characteristics of robotically harvested hair follicles in Koreans. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2014 Sep 13. pii: S0190-9622(14)01789-7.)) published in the January 2014 issue of the journal ‘Dermatologic Surgery,’ researchers from the Republic of Korea collected and analyzed robotically harvested follicular units in a clinical setting using the ARTAS® Robotic System. This is the first time such data has been collected from Korean patients.

Specifically, they looked at the yield of follicular units, the ratio of successfully extracted follicular units to the total number of attempted extractions, and the rate at which hair follicles were transected, or damaged, during the procedure.

They found that the ARTAS system was able to harvest multiple hairs with high yields and low transection rates.

The Study: Characteristics of Robotically Harvested Hair Follicles in Koreans

The researchers collected data on robotically harvested follicular units from 22 Korean patients in a clinical setting using the ARTAS system. To reduce variation due to differences in patients, they collected follicular units from the same scalp location on each patient.

On average, the researchers found that 95% of extraction attempts were successful in producing a follicular unit, while the remaining 5% of attempts resulted in follicular units either being lost inside the robot’s suction system or becoming attached to the robot’s dissection instrument.

Of the successfully extracted follicular units, the average transection rate was 4.9%. This is 16% to 38% lower than has been reported elsewhere ((Wasserbauer S. Robotic assisted harvest of follicular units: Abstract book of 19th annual scientific meeting of International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery; September 14-18, 2011; Anchorage, AK. pp. 252-6.)), ((Kasai K, Haruyama I, Aikawa Y, Saito K. Advantages and disadvantages of FUE using ARTAS system form Japanese: Abstract book of 21st annual scientific meeting of International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery; October 23-26, 2013; San Francisco (CA). pp. 387-8.)). The researchers hypothesized that this lower transection rate could be due attribute these differences to the variability of a patient’s hair profile (e.g., waviness, thickness, color) and the surgeon’s minute control of the depth of punches.

Finally, they found that the robot was able to harvest follicular units that contained multiple hair follicles, anywhere from 2 to 5 follicles with the average being 2.4; However, they also found that as the number of hair follicles inside a follicular unit increased, the likelihood of transecting one or more follicles also increased.

The researchers concluded that the robot efficiently harvests not only follicular units with single hairs but also follicular units with multiple hairs. A limitation of the study was not comparing the characteristics of robotically harvested follicular units to manually harvested follicular units within the same group of patients.

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Dr. Bernstein is quoted extensively in an article on robotic hair transplantation in the online magazine American Health & Beauty.

ARTAS Robotic FUE Imaging System
ARTAS Robotic FUE Imaging System
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In “ARTAS: A Faster and More Accurate Hair Transplant Using Robotics?” Dr. Bernstein explains the benefits of robotic FUE over traditional FUE hair transplant procedures. He describes how the new robotic device overcomes some important limitations of FUE when performed manually. To better understand the role of the new instrument, Dr. Bernstein simplifies the FUE procedure into four basic steps and discusses where the image-guided robotic system fits into this process.

Dr. Bernstein explains how the new technology enables the robotic device to preserve follicular units and minimize damage to grafts though its image-guided system.

“ARTAS allows us to do the FUE procedure with much less damage to the graft which means much healthier grafts. Grafted follicles extracted by ARTAS are not cut, which has been a problem with FUE, but the grafted follicular units are actually chunkier with more protective tissue around them, resulting in a better graft survival with the robotic FUE vs. doing FUE manually,” says Dr. Bernstein.

Follicular Unit Grafts Removed by ARTAS Robotic System

Follicular Unit Grafts Removed by
ARTAS Robotic System

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In addition to extracting grafts that have a higher chance of surviving the extraction and transplantation process, the article discusses the increased speed and accuracy of the automated procedure, as well as the safety mechanisms built into the robotic unit.

Always with an eye towards the future of hair transplantation, Dr. Bernstein predicts what he sees as an inevitable rise in the use of robotics in the field:

“I imagine that within a relatively short time, everybody will be offering the robot-assisted device when considering FUE procedures, because it’s just a better way of doing it: more accurate, quicker extraction and healthier grafts.”

The ARTAS System, developed by the California-based Restoration Robotics, Inc., will be available for FUE hair transplant procedures at Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration in November 2011.

Read the full version of the article.

You can read much more about the ARTAS System for FUE or Robotic FUE hair transplantation.

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Press Release

Dr. Robert M. Bernstein – pioneer of the follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE) hair transplant procedures – will become the first hair restoration physician on the East Coast to employ the robotic ARTAS™ System for FUE hair transplantation.

New York, NY — Robert M. Bernstein, M.D., F.A.A.D., world-renowned pioneer of the Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant techniques and founder of Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration, will become the first hair transplant surgeon on the East Coast to use the robotic ARTAS System for Hair Restoration. Procedures using the computer-driven, automated system will begin in November 2011 in his state-of-the-art New York City facility.

ARTAS Robotic System for FUE at Bernstein Medical
ARTAS Robotic System for FUE
at Bernstein Medical

Dr. Bernstein, a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University in New York, said that he is excited to incorporate the image-guided robotic system into his FUE procedures. “The ARTAS System is a ground-breaking technology for hair transplantation that will provide significant benefits to our patients,” said Dr. Bernstein. “From the accuracy of follicular unit graft extraction to the automation of what is normally a labor and skill intensive procedure, the outcome is better hair restoration results and faster, more comfortable procedures.”

The ARTAS System for Hair Restoration, developed by Restoration Robotics, Inc., overcomes some of the human limitations in performing FUE hair transplant procedures. Greater accuracy in extracting follicular unit grafts, combined with the sharp/blunt extraction technique, allows for graft removal with less damage to the graft and greater preservation of its protective tissues. A lower rate of damage increases the probability that the grafts will survive the transplant process, leading to better hair restoration results. The automation of what is a technically challenging and physically demanding process for the physician when performed manually, contributes to a shorter procedure and a decreased need for local anesthetic.

By utilizing the latest and most effective advancements in hair transplantation technology, Dr. Bernstein, a New York native, is extending his record as a true pioneer in the field of hair restoration. His landmark medical publications on follicular unit transplantation and follicular unit extraction revolutionized the field and provide the foundation for techniques in use by hair transplant surgeons across five continents. His medical practice has been devoted exclusively to the treatment of hair loss since 1995 and he now performs both restorative and corrective hair transplant procedures at his state-of-the-art hair restoration facility in mid-town Manhattan.

Dr. Bernstein has appeared on a wide variety of notable media programs and publications. Some of these include: The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, National Public Radio, New York Times, Men’s Health Magazine, GQ Magazine, Univision, Telemundo, “O” the Oprah Magazine, and more. He is co-author of Hair Loss & Replacement for Dummies and The Patient’s Guide to Hair Restoration. He has been selected as one of NY Magazine’s “Best Doctors in New York” for 12 consecutive years.

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Robotics in FUE hair transplant surgery is a topic that is attracting increasing attention in the world of hair restoration. As we have discussed, the ARTAS robotic system for hair restoration is the newest technology in this ever-evolving field.

Before & 9 Months After FUE with ARTAS Robotic System
Before & 9 Months After FUE with ARTAS Robotic System
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This new system, developed by Restoration Robotics, Inc., is more than just a new tool for performing Follicular Unit Extraction. Rather, it is a complex system that uses the latest in mechanical and software technology to automate FUE surgery. The robot not only allows doctors to perform this typically labor and skill intensive procedure, but it provides a variety of benefits to their patients. Among these benefits are increased accuracy in follicular unit graft harvesting, reduced harvesting time, and increased graft survival.

An article in the September/October 2011 issue of the journal Aesthetic Trends & Technologies adds detail to our knowledge of the benefits of the ARTAS System. The article, titled, “How Technology is Changing the Hair Restoration Industry,” first gives a basic overview of the system and why it was developed. It then goes on to describe how a specially-designed device, called a skin tensioner, along with an image-guided system, tracks each follicular unit on the patient’s scalp and allows for the precise control of graft extraction.

From the article:

The technology determines the location, angle, and direction of each individual hair follicle; and via complex algorithms and computer programming, it is able to determine almost instantaneously the proper approach to harvest each follicular unit. The image-guided robotic arm begins harvesting the hair follicles in random patterns, according to the harvest spacing set by the physician. These random patterns make the procedure virtually undetectable after the wounds have healed.

The accuracy and performance of the image-guided robotic system is notable and contributes significantly to the improved outcome of the FUE procedure. As Miguel Canales, M.D., Medical Director for Restoration Robotics, says in the article, the transection rate, or rate at which follicular units are damaged in the extraction process, is consistently less with robotic controlled FUE compared to that performed manually.

This kind of consistency yields a benefit not only to seasoned hair restoration surgeons, but to physicians of all skill levels. James Harris, M.D., a hair restoration physician based in Colorado, says that a novice physician, who might only be able extract 50-70 grafts in one hour using the traditional manual technique, extract 600-700 an hour. For a procedure of 1,500 grafts, the physical demand on both the physician and the patient is substantially reduced with the ARTAS System versus the standard manual graft excision techniques in FUE surgery.

Before & 7 Days After FUE with ARTAS Robotic System
Before & 7 Days After FUE with ARTAS Robotic System
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The developers of the ARTAS System were also conscientious of the safety of the FUE patient. An array of sensors monitors patient movement and causes the system to respond to the force of the punch used in graft excision or to any instances where the system’s casing touches the patient. If the force exerted is too strong, or if the casing touches the patient, the system automatically backs away from the patient, allowing the physician to make sure that all is well before the surgery proceeds. According to the article, there were no safety-related “adverse events” in trials with over 350 patients.

From the efficiency of the ARTAS System in extracting follicular unit grafts, to the quality of the grafts, to patient safety, the benefits are many for the physician. The patient will receive a high quality hair transplant with a less intensive time commitment, less local anesthesia needed to numb the area, improved hair growth rates, and a better overall FUE hair transplant experience.

Download and read the article here (pdf).

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