The three primary objectives of a consultation and pre-operative planning are first to establish a rapport with the prospective patient, second to educate him about the nature of hair loss as well as the benefits and limitations of hair transplantation, and finally, to evaluate their individual situation to determine a specific and personalized hair restoration plan.
Proper assessment of patient expectations before surgery is performed is a vital part of this consultative process. One cannot have satisfied patients without meeting their expectations. To meet the patient’s expectations, a physician needs to do the following: Assess a patient’s initial expectations; determine the potential achievable aesthetic results for this specific patient; inform the patient about realistic expectations.
Current techniques for consulting with the patients involve drawing the hairline design with surgical pens and having patients imagine what they may look like after hair transplantation. Physicians attempt to describe to patients what coverage and aesthetic outcome they may achieve with different hair transplant sessions sizes (e.g. 1500 grafts, 2000 grafts, 3000 grafts) by showing the patient photos of other patients “like them” who underwent a similar procedure. Unfortunately, these methods fall short of answering a fundamental question patients have when making this important and life-changing decision: “what will I look like after a hair transplantation.”
In my clinic, we have adopted the ARTAS Hair Studio (AHS) technology as an integral part of the patient experience. The AHS is a powerful tool that helps me customize my consultation for a specific patient and set realistic expectations.
The ARTAS Hair Studio Consultation Process
When the patient first visits the clinic for their consultation, my staff takes five photographs of their face and head (front, back, top, left and right profile). These photographs are uploaded onto the AHS software. My staff or I create the 3D model on the dedicated tablet computer. The process of model building should take less than 5 minutes. This is completed prior to my sitting with and consulting with the patient.
When I see the patient, I conduct my customary interview with regards to hair loss history and medical treatment options. Once we make a determination that the patient is a good candidate for the hair restoration procedure, I begin using the AHS to engage in a dialogue as to what are their aesthetic goals and expectations.
One of the major areas of the consultation is determining where the reconstructed hairline will be positioned. Patients often come into the consultation with a pre-conceived idea of where they want their new hairline; many times, they bring photographs of themselves of when they were much younger and want their hairline positioned low on their frontal scalp as if they are in their 20s. This would be aesthetically unnatural and not appropriate for any middle-aged man.
With the AHS technology, I am able to present different simulated scenarios of what the patient would look like with their hairline positioned too low and with a hairline that is located in an age-appropriate position. This tool enables me to inform the patient on the rationale behind my clinical recommendations and gain a joint agreement with the patient as to what hairline position would meet their aesthetic goals. I also detail the irregularities and density gradients I will create on their recipient areas to create a natural aesthetic look. I allow the patients to handle the AHS tablet computer so that they can rotate the image and see themselves from different points of view and to zoom-in to areas of interest. This really captures the patient’s interest and fully engages them in their treatment decisions.
Another area where I focus a considerable amount of time is the size of the hair restoration session. After evaluating their donor area, I explain to the patient how many potential grafts we will be able to extract with the ARTAS procedure. I use the AHS Technology to create simulations on the amount of coverage that is achievable with different graft counts; for example, 1500 grafts, 2000 grafts, 3000 grafts. Going through this exercise with patients helps me convey realistic expectations as to what can be aesthetically accomplished given the session size that is possible with their donor area. I can visually demonstrate to patients that if they choose a smaller session size (e.g. 1500 grafts) and the surface area of balding is large, they will not achieve full coverage and they will have uncovered areas and/or areas where there will be some “see through” into their scalp even after a transplantation. Patients are thus able to better forecast their own ultimate aesthetic outcome, after it is illustrated on the AHS Technology. Indeed, most patients appreciate that more grafts are often needed than initially anticipated in order to meet their aesthetic goals.
After the ARTAS Hair Studio consultation process, I explain to the patients how I use the ARTAS Site Making, which enables the ARTAS Robotic System to create the recipient sites according to the aesthetic design the patient and I decided on together. It is important for the patients to realize that the ARTAS Site Making bridges the artistry of our aesthetic design to the actual potential aesthetic result they will achieve with the ARTAS procedure. I also explain to patients that the ARTAS Robotic System is able to avoid damaging the healthy pre-existing hair that is dispersed within their balding areas. Patients gain more confidence in the hair transplantation process and what their result may be.
After conducting the consultation, the AHS Technology allows me to print out the simulations of the hairline designs and the session sizes. All patients receive a print out of the consultation. I find this documented report to be important, because it enables the patients to share the consultation with their spouses or trusted friends and it documents the value of their visit with me.
Benefits to my patients
I’ve been using the AHS Technology and consider it a valuable part of my hair transplant practice. Each of my patients that goes through the ARTAS Hair Studio consultation process quickly gains insight on the many nuances of this wonderful cosmetic procedure; such individuals become empowered to make more informed decisions when considering options to achieve their own aesthetic goals. Patients that allow me to take their photos and tour them through their 3D-like images are the ones that most often schedule procedures in my center after realizing that the blend of artistry, experience and technology that we bring to the table will deliver the best possible hair transplant experience.