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HOW ROBOTICS AND AI ARE REVOLUTIONIZING HAIR TRANSPLANTATION

Mya Care Blogger 02 Apr 2024
HOW ROBOTICS AND AI ARE REVOLUTIONIZING HAIR TRANSPLANTATION

Hair loss (alopecia) is a common problem impacting millions worldwide. These include female and male pattern baldness, alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease), and secondary alopecia. Causes vary, including genetics, hormonal changes, scarring, and medical conditions. Alopecia can have a marked impact on the self-esteem and confidence of those it plagues.

Fortunately, scientific progress has led to the development of innovative hair restoration techniques, such as the FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) and FUT (Follicular Unit Transplant).[1]

  • In FUT, the surgeon extracts a strip of donor skin to isolate individual follicular units for transfer to the hair-loss regions. FUT procedures are usually faster than FUE.
  • In FUE, individual follicular units are removed evenly from the scalp and transferred to the balding or thinning areas. FUE is considered a gentler approach than FUT, with minimal scarring.

These procedures usually last between 4 and 8 hours, and patients can go home the same day. During a hair transplant, the majority of patients remain conscious. Topical anesthetic eliminates pain throughout the procedure.

While these procedures have many benefits for those suffering from hair loss, they also have drawbacks. FUT can lead to excessive scarring, and FUE can cause widespread follicle damage. As the procedures involve hours of repetitive and meticulous tasks, the surgeon is prone to fatigue and making errors.

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have recently upgraded hair transplantation, minimizing its limitations. This blog uncovers the novel role of robotics and AI in hair transplantation and sheds light on how it can revolutionize the field of hair restoration moving forward.

The Role of Robotics and AI in Hair Restoration

AI algorithms and robotics in hair restoration have improved FUE and FUT techniques.

By analyzing data from past procedures, AI algorithms enhance the precision and predict the success rate of hair transplants for individual patients. They map the patient's scalp before the procedure to assist in planning, reveal the best donor follicles, and identify optimal placements for the best results.

The robotic arm, guided by advanced AI-aided imaging technology, extracts individual follicles with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. Robot extraction reduces human error and increases the overall success rate.

Furthermore, real-time monitoring during an AI hair transplant procedure ensures that the surgeon can tailor the approach based on the patient's unique traits, leading to natural-looking results and minimizing potential side effects.

ARTAS Robotic System

The ARTAS® Robotic Hair Restoration System is the first and only FDA-cleared, physician-assisted robotic system for hair transplantation, developed by Restoration Robotics in 2008. This system helps a surgeon with follicle extraction.

In 2018, they created the ARTAS iX robot system that assists in extraction and implantation. This system is a state-of-the-art technology that combines robotics and artificial intelligence to improve the precision and effectiveness of hair transplantation procedures.[2]

Here are the key features of the ARTAS iX robotic system and how AI algorithms guide its robotic arm for precise follicle harvesting and implantation:

  1. Advanced Imaging Technology: The ARTAS system utilizes cutting-edge imaging technology to render an intricate 3D map of the patient's scalp. The surgeon can use this 3D map to identify and analyze the characteristics of each hair follicle, such as angle, depth, and density. 3D mapping allows them to plan and perform the surgery more accurately.
  2. AI Algorithms for Follicle Selection: AI algorithms analyze scalp images and identify the optimal follicles for transplantation. These algorithms consider various factors, including hair quality, thickness, and natural growth pattern. The AI algorithms help ensure the best possible results by selecting the healthiest and most suitable follicles.
  3. Robotic Arm Precision: The robotic arm of the ARTAS system performs precise and consistent movements. It can extract hair follicles with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue and implant them accurately in the recipient area. The robotic arm's motion is guided by AI algorithms, which calculate each follicle's precise angle and depth to achieve natural-looking results.
  4. Real-time Monitoring: The ARTAS system enables real-time monitoring during the procedure. AI algorithms analyze transplantation progress, guiding surgeons based on individual patient characteristics. This customization improves the success rate and reduces complications.

Due to the high precision, the ARTAS system can potentially be an alternative to FUT and reduce the drawbacks of FUE, such as the risk of follicle damage, leading to the best possible results. Clients can benefit from a more natural-looking hairline and a shorter recovery period.

The ARTAS system enhances hair transplantation procedures' accuracy, efficiency, and natural look by combining advanced imaging technology, AI algorithms, and a precise robotic arm. It revolutionizes the field of hair restoration by providing patients with a minimally invasive and highly effective treatment option.

The Benefits of Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic hair restoration does away with the need for FUT and improves upon all aspects of conventional FUE hair transplant in the following ways[3]:

Precision and Accuracy

A prime benefit of robotics and AI in hair transplantation is the precision and accuracy it offers. The robotic arm can extract individual follicles with a diameter of less than 1mm, ensuring minimal scarring in the donor area. This level of precision also allows for a more natural-looking hairline and overall result.

Moreover, using AI algorithms guarantees that the donor follicles are of the finest quality with a better chance of survival when implanted into the recipient area. These can also allow for better planning of the implants' depth, angle, alignment, and hair density. This specificity diminishes the chances of complications and enhances the procedure’s overall success.

Minimally Invasive Procedure

Using robotics and AI in hair transplantation has made the FUE technique even less invasive. With the help of a robotic arm, the surgeon can extract individual follicles with smaller, more precise incisions, reducing the risk of scarring and minimizing the recovery time.

Moreover, AI algorithms allow for a more targeted approach, ensuring that only the healthiest follicles are extracted and implanted. This selectivity reduces the risk of damage to the surrounding tissue and improves the healing process.

Faster Recovery Time

Using robotics and AI in hair transplantation has significantly reduced the recovery time for patients. With the FUE technique, patients can resume their daily activities within a few days, compared to the traditional FUT technique, which can take up to two weeks for recovery.

Moreover, the precision and accuracy of the robotic arm ensure that the implanted follicles have a better chance of survival, resulting in faster hair growth and a shorter recovery time.

How Does a Robotic Hair Transplant Work?

The procedure is the same as an ordinary hair transplant, with the addition of AI imaging and robot assistance.

Once the patient decides to go ahead with a hair transplant, they meet with a hair transplant surgeon to determine the suitability of a robotic hair transplant and to start planning the transplant.

During the consultation, a hair transplant surgeon will discuss the patient's goals and expectations, perform a scalp examination to assess their hair, and create a personalized treatment plan.

  • Preparation

Before the procedure, the surgeon evaluates the donor and recipient areas of the scalp. Healthy hair follicles get removed from the donor area and implanted in the recipient area.

The surgeon uses advanced imaging technology to create a detailed 3D map of the patient's scalp, analyzing the characteristics of each hair follicle, such as angle, depth, and density. This mapping helps guide the robotic arm during the procedure.

  • Robotic Extraction

Using the ARTAS robotic system, the robotic arm accurately identifies and extracts individual hair follicles from the donor area.

The AI algorithms analyze the scalp images and select the healthiest and most suitable follicles for extraction. The robotic arm performs precise and consistent movements, preventing tissue damage and guaranteeing the harvest of high-quality follicles for implantation.

  • Follicle Placement

Once the follicles are ready, the surgeon surgically sets them in the recipient area using the robotic arm.

The AI algorithms guide the robotic arm, calculating each follicle's precise angle and depth to achieve natural-looking results. The robot arm "punches" holes into the scalp like a surgeon does and inserts the follicles.[4]

The placement of the follicles considers the patient's natural hair growth pattern, angle, and density, ensuring an aesthetically pleasing outcome.

  • Post-Procedural Care

After the transplant is over, the surgeon will place gauze over the patient's head and provide them with instructions for post-operative care. These may include guidelines on washing the scalp, pain management, avoiding certain activities, and taking medication if necessary.[5]

Follow-up appointments are essential to ensure an optimal healing process, assess the success of the transplant, and manage any queries the patient may have.

Concerns and Limitations

The main drawbacks of AI-guided robotic hair transplantation indicate its early stage of development. These include:

  • A higher cost compared to traditional methods
  • Not suitable for all hair types, including complete baldness or frizzy hair
  • This might not be advisable for patients who are too sensitive to pain since one remains conscious during the procedure even when on anesthetics
  • Low availability, caused by the scarcity of surgeons proficient in robot systems and the limited presence of the technology in a few clinics worldwide
  • Potential for glitches or technical issues that could affect the procedure

Despite advancements in robotics and AI, the expertise and experience of the surgeon are still crucial for the procedure's success, along with proper post-operative care.

Another concern is that as the use of robotics and AI in hair transplantation is relatively new, long-term safety and efficacy data are still emerging. Using robotics in hair transplantation also presents legal and ethical concerns, such as the accountability of AI-powered devices when errors occur.

Ongoing research and development in robotics and AI in hair transplantation suggest promising prospects for further advancements and improvements.

Future Advances in Hair Transplantation

The future of hair transplantation holds exciting possibilities with advancements in technology and research.

Ongoing research focuses on refining AI algorithms and improving the guidance and control of robotic arms during hair transplantation procedures. The aim is to achieve enhanced precision, efficiency, and accuracy in scalp mapping, follicle extraction, and implant placement. Fully automated robotic systems supervised by surgeons could revolutionize hair transplantation, making it more accessible and efficient.

With further advancements, these systems will continue to enrich the field of hair restoration, minimizing complications, enhancing the natural appearance, and improving overall patient outcomes.

Other active areas of research include:

  • Biocompatible Prosthetic Hair: The ongoing exploration of biocompatible hair follicle growth technologies may eliminate the need for donor areas.[6]
  • 3D Bio-Printing: Biocompatible hair materials pave the way for 3D bioprinting, in which 3D printers can create custom hair follicle grafts for implantation without needing a donor sample upfront. 3D printing is also currently allowing researchers to test out these experimental techniques on 3D bio-printed human skin and to recreate scalp grafts for those in need.[7]
  • Hair Growth Stimulation: Simultaneously, researchers are exploring ways to enhance hair growth with various methods, such as growth factors and stem cells. These can enhance the regrowth of transplanted hair and improve biocompatibility in 3D-printed hair follicles.
  • Follicle Preservation: Advancements in follicle preservation techniques can maximize the viability of extracted follicles. Cryopreservation methods may enhance long-term storage and improve the success rates of transplantation.[8]

As technology progresses, we will see more improvements that lower the procedure's cost, enable widespread availability, and further lower the risk for side effects, leading to a successful result in every case.

Conclusion

The use of robotics and AI in hair transplantation is revolutionizing the field of hair restoration. With the help of a robotic arm and advanced imaging technology, surgeons can extract and implant individual follicles with precision and accuracy, resulting in natural-looking results and a minimally invasive procedure.

With further development, robotic AI hair transplant procedures have potential to form the golden standard of treatment in healthcare systems, improving outcomes for hair loss patients. Patients can achieve high-quality, long-lasting results and regain their confidence and self-esteem.

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Sources:

  • [1] https://knudsen.com.au/treatments/hair-transplant-surgery/
  • [2] https://www.advancedlaserandskincancercenter.com/content/artas-robotic-hair-restoration-intro
  • [3] https://www.hairpalace.co.uk/hair-transplant/robotic-hair-transplant/
  • [4] https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/hair-transplantation-and-restoration/procedure
  • [5]https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/hair-transplantation-and-restoration/recovery
  • [6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9705605/
  • [7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10575578/
  • [8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37482479/

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