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Top Ten Plastic Surgery Advances of the 21st Century
With the first ten years of the twenty first century coming to a close, a recent survey of plastic surgeons helps shed light on some of the biggest innovations during this time.
Face transplant surgeries
“There is nothing new about the surgical techniques used for this procedure. The new and exciting part is that we are using our technology to help redefine the faces of those who have literally lost their identity due to trauma. That is exciting,” says facial plastic surgeon Dr. D.J. Verret.
Return of silicone breast implants for cosmetic surgery
While silicone breast implants for reconstructive purposes never took a hiatus, after strenuous scientific review and new treatment guidelines, silicone implants for cosmetic surgery have returned. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Evan Sorokin, “After 15 years of intense scrutiny silicone implants were determined to be safe and effective and were welcomed back to the market with surgeon's open arms.”
Fractional laser resurfacing
The introduction of fractional laser resurfacing at the turn of the century meant that the prolonged skin healing, prolonged skin redness, and risks of classic laser resurfacing have been minimized without minimizing results. The technology started with lasers designed to treat age spots and has spread to lasers which also treat wrinkles. Unlike older laser technologies, fractional treatments can be completed with topical anesthesia alone. “There has been a long search for a technology which produces the same results for wrinkle improvement as the carbon dioxide laser without the complications or long recovery. The fractional technology applied to carbon dioxide lasers is the answer to that search,” according to facial plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Kienstra.
Combination liposuction technologies
The combination of laser and ultrasound technology with old liposuction techniques provides some new possibilities for decreased recovery and improved liposuction results. Though the scientific evidence is still mixed, continued development means this is a very promising innovation. “There is a lot of art involved with the application of the technology and it appears to be the first technology which will allow true sculpting of the body,” says Dr. Ed Khoury.
Pain pumps for cosmetic surgery
Patient controlled analgesia has been used for years in surgery to allow patients to give medications through the vein to control pain. Recently, devices have been introduced which allow patients to provide pain relief at their own discretion right to the site of pain. Dr Sorokin comments, “Pain pumps have greatly decreased hospital stays and decreased recovery times for both our cosmetic and reconstructive surgery patients.”
Increasing number of organic make ups
“About 20-30% of what we put on our skin is absorbed through the skin,” according to naturopathic doctor Dr. Kimberly Wilson. “The use of organic make up products helps to decrease the amount of toxins we expose our skin to and thus helps women to live healthier. Over the last ten years there has been a significant growth in organic skin products which definitely means healthier skin.”
Laser vein therapy
For many patients, the days of pain and days of recovery to get rid of pesky leg veins are long gone. The advances in laser technology have allowed many patients to undergo very successful leg vein removal with local anesthesia and limited time off their feet.
Increasing variety of dermal fillers
For people who do not like the lines on their face, there are options for treatment including skin, or dermal, fillers. Dermal fillers have been around since the 1980s but unfortunately early fillers didn’t last that long. Recent introductions into the market have seen an increase in longevity of the results (sometimes several years), an increase in use, and an increasing number of areas in which they are used. Plastic surgeon Dr. Ronald Friedman notes, “Dermal fillers and botulinum toxin products enable patients to undergo chemical browlifts and liquid facelifts, frequently delaying or obviating the need for surgery.” According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery survey, there were over 1.5 million dermal fillers injections in 2008, up from just half a million in 2000.
Hair cloning research
Though hair cloning is not a commercially available procedure, the technology has come a long way in the last ten years with several companies currently performing clinical trials. “Once the technology becomes commercially available, surgeons will no longer be limited by a finite donor site. The dream of a full head of hair will become a reality,” says Dr. Verret.
Stem cell harvesting from fat acquired during liposuction
While there is a considerable controversy about embryonic stem cells, recent technology has allowed extraction of stem cells from the fat removed during liposuction procedures. These cells hold promise for future scientific research and as yet unthinkable medical discoveries.
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About the Survey – Survey results are based on a poll of plastic surgeons in December 2009 asked “What is the biggest innovation in plastic surgery from the last 10 years?” Results were tallied and the top ten vote getting responses were reported. All quotes are used with permission.
About Dr. Verret - Dr. D.J. Verret is a facial plastic surgeon in Plano, Texas. He is certified by both the American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery. He has authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles, several medical book chapters, two books on patient education topics, is an assistant clinical professor at UT Southwestern Medical School, presenter at multiple national and international facial plastic surgery meetings, and a clinical instructor in the facial plastic surgery fellowship program.