Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration - Robotic FUE Transection Rates
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Q: I thought that FUE extraction is performed in a way that it cannot be detected. Therefore, it is best to distribute the pattern evenly starting from the safe zone and fading out on the sides. The ARTAS results often show a smaller extraction area and harder edges (no transition from extraction to non-extraction area). Does this lead to a higher risk to detect the surgery? — H.K. ~ Chicago, I.L.

A: Feathering of the extraction zone in FUE is a technique where the distance between the extractions gradually increases as one reaches the border of the extracted zone. When this technique should be used depends upon the short- and long-term goals of the patient. If the patient’s main goal of the FUE procedure is to wear their hair very short, then the technique of feathering and rounding the edges to have a less distinct border is appropriate, as this will decrease the visibility of the harvested area.

However, if a person does not wear his hair very short (nor plans to) and maximizing the donor supply is paramount, then a more organized pattern, with less feathering, will give a greater long-term yield and a more even distribution. The reason is that the healing of FUE wounds distorts adjacent follicular units making subsequent extraction in the same regions more difficult and increases the risk of transection. For this reason, in subsequent procedures we generally prefer to harvest in new areas. If we need to harvest more hair from the same area, we rarely go back more than once.

When one feathers extensively in the donor area, this utilizes a larger surface area of the scalp with less graft yield, so it may become necessary to go back over the same area to obtain additional grafts, often multiple times. This risks increased transection and an uneven, mottled appearance to the donor area.

If a person wears his hair very short, then feathering is critical (even though it makes subsequent extraction more problematic). It is very easy to feather and round edges with the ARTAS robot, but we make the decision to do so based upon the specific needs and goals of the patient.

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Q: Is it true that manual FUE hair transplant procedures are better than robotic hair transplants because the physician can adjust and feel the follicle when extracting? — M.H. ~ Great Neck, N.Y.

A: The ARTAS robot is a physician controlled, computerized device that uses a three-dimensional optical system to isolate follicular units from the back of the scalp in a hair transplant. The robotic system assists the physician in the extraction of grafts with precision and speed. Although there is some advantage to having “human feel” for the tissue, this is far outweighed by the fact that repetitive procedures performed manually thousands of times lead to operator fatigue and result in increased transection and damage to grafts. With the ARTAS robotic system, the quality of the first and the last graft harvested will be the same.

Read about advantages of the ARTAS Robot over manual FUE procedures

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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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