A first-of-its kind review has looked at the current state of regenerative medicine and analyzed ways it could be used to enhance the practices of facial plastic surgery. The paper offers a fascinating glimpse of what the future of this practice could hold and how it can help everything from crippling disorders to offering cosmetic anti-aging remedies.
“Regenerative medicine” is an umbrella term for a number of different techniques being used and developed that try and harness the ability of the body to heal itself from serious injuries. The field covers everything from skin grafts, stem cell applications, to synthetic scaffolds for growing bone and tissue, and much more.
For facial plastic surgeons, these techniques offer ways that can enhance surgical reconstruction procedures and research is already working on various approaches. For instance, regenerative medicine could help correct congenital issues like a cleft palate, grow new skin in the wake of burns, help reverse facial muscle loss from disease or injury, mend facial nerve injuries, or event reverse the effects of facial aging.
Aside from offering new techniques, it is hoped that future advances in regenerative medicine will be able to replace current approaches such as autologous grafts or botox. An autologous graft is when the patient’s own tissue is harvested to produce a graft.
This removes the risk of rejection but the harvesting process is not always easy or feasible, depending on the size of the graft needed or the condition of the skin. Botox is the use of botulinum toxin to paralyze nerves and, although effective, is not risk free since there is a chance for the toxin to leap to nearby nerves and start affecting unintended areas.
Some of these regenerative medicine techniques, like the use of scaffolds, are already in use in reconstructive surgeries. Others still require further research or clinical testing to devise ways that they can be used effectively. Regardless of which, the paper shows that facial plastic surgery is a field that will continue to grow and evolve well in to the future.
Drain, K., “Plastic Surgery Techniques 2016 Involve Regenerative Medicine: What Patients Can Expect,” Medical Daily web site, August 11, 2016; http://www.medicaldaily.com/future-plastic-surgery-involves-regenerative-medicine-what-patients-can-expect-394614, last accessed August 12, 2016.
Miller, M., et al., “Regenerative Medicine in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,” JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 2016; 10.1001/jamafacial.2016.0913.