Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=223092
Story Retrieval Date: 4/24/2014 6:27:50 PM CST

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New hair transplant robot decreases downtime, increases patients self-esteem

by Emily Nelson
Jun 12, 2013


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Dr. Yates Hair Science

An after shot from the hair surgery using a robot.

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Dr. Yates Hair Science

The strip method where the patient is left with a scar.

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U.S. Hair Restoration

Psychology of hair transplants.

Azam Khan, 44, no longer avoids mirrors. After 14 years of dealing with male pattern baldness, the Lincolnwood resident decided to get a hair transplant. 

“I am not looking 44, I am eight years back,” Khan said. “I am feeling very confident and very good.”

Dr. William Yates performed Kahn’s procedure at his Vernon Hills office using the ARTAS robot, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.The robot received a gold medal in April at the 26th Edison Awards, an international awards ceremony honoring innovators in science and medicine.

Yates said the main difference is the robot’s minimally invasive technique. “Most people have had scars until now. The main difference is you don’t get the scar,” he said.

Procedures used since the 1950s involve removing a narrow strip of the scalp from the back of the head, where more hair is present, and transferring it to areas with thin or no hair. This left the patient with a scar on the back of his head. 

The ARTAS robot, made by San Jose, Calif.-based Restoration Robotics, scans the back of the head for the most viable hair. It then harvests the hair with the physician’s assistance and places the sections of hair, or grafts, into the desired areas. It’s an outpatient procedure that takes approximately six to eight hours to complete.

Yates has a personal connection to hair transplant procedures. The Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine alum and former cancer surgeon not only now performs hair transplant surgeries, but he was also once a patient.

“I couldn’t believe the difference it made in my life. It affected me so greatly,” Yates said. “I knew there were a lot of other people suffering in silence.”

According to the Mayo Clinic website, people with a family history of baldness are more prone to hair loss. Other causes include poor nutrition, stress and excessive use of damaging hair treatments.

The hair transplant procedure isn’t just for men. Yates said 30 percent of his patients are women. According to The International Society of Hair Restoration, 35 American million men and 21 million women  experience hair loss.

“We will soften the face and move the hairline forward. I also do a lot of eyebrows,” Yates said.

The procedure has less pain and fewer complications than other procedures because it is less invasive technique.

“I took no painkillers. The healing time was two days,” Khan said.

The healing time for the more invasive hair transplant procedure is usually about a week, and a local anesthetic is almost always needed, Yates said. 

The procedure costs around $8,000 and is not covered by insurance. This is more expensive than the strip hair transplant, which usually costs around $6,000.

“The only chance for getting it covered by insurance is if you are severely burned.  But usually it’s purely cosmetic.” Yates said. He added that many finance companies offer payment plans for the procedure.

Regardless of how patients pay for the surgery, they must have realistic expectations going in.

“I’m not a magician. I tell people ‘Brad Pitt doesn’t even look like Brad Pitt,’” Yates said.  “But people are generally very pleased with the results.”