Plastic surgeons have been busy researching ways to repair wounds and extreme facial trauma. From stem cells to facial transplantation, plastic surgeons published a number of studies showing leaps in helping patients heal, according to a recent issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (PRS).

“Plastic surgeons are making impressive steps in finding better ways to heal wounds,” said ASPS President Roxanne Guy, MD. “Diabetics may soon have more choices to battle foot sores and leg ulcers, while surgical patients of all kinds could heal faster and forgo extensive pain medication because of this groundbreaking research.”

Two new findings could greatly benefit diabetics. On one front, researchers have found a subpopulation of bone marrow stem cells that may heal patients faster than utilizing the whole stem cell. On the other, plastic surgeons may have found a workable scaffold that will allow them to mold and hold stem cells prior to injecting them into the body, allowing patients to “grow” their own tissue graft right on the wound site. These leaps in medicine could offer quicker, better relief for diabetic patients.

Any surgical patient, from breast reconstruction to a tummy tuck, may experience less pain and heal faster with pulsed magnetic fields, according to another study. Low-frequency magnetic fields are directed at the wound with a small, portable device to aid cells in healing the body. In a world where patients are discharged quickly and are impatient with the healing process, this promising treatment may get them back on their feet much faster.

Are we ready to move facial transplantation into mainstream medicine? Perhaps, according to another article in PRS where physicians probe the remaining hurdles to routinely performing facial transplantation. Looking at the various psychological and social consequences of being disfigured, such as discrimination and self-esteem issues, physicians agree the extreme and devastating psychological implications of being disfigured overshadow surgical and immunological issues.

“These studies show the ways plastic surgeons may soon help people get back to their daily lives quicker—whether transplanting a face for a patient that allows them to live at ease among society again or helping a woman who’s had breast reconstruction heal faster,” said Guy.

[ASPS, September 12, 2007]