New Technology, Procedures, and Awareness Fuel Rise in Breast Reconstruction, Hand Surgeries Among UT Southwestern Plastic Surgeons

Released: 24-Mar-2014 4:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: UT Southwestern Medical Center
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Newswise — DALLAS – March 24, 2014 – New statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) show that plastic surgery procedures are on the rise, up 3 percent for cosmetic procedures and 2 percent for reconstructive procedures over the previous year. UT Southwestern plastic surgeons say the increased interest may be driven in part by patients’ growing awareness of options and new techniques.

Among reconstruction procedures, breast reconstruction was up 4 percent in the ASPS’ review of 2013 procedures, with silicone implants accounting for 72 percent of all breast augmentations performed last year and saline implants used in 28 percent of cases.

“I think women in particular are educating themselves more and becoming more interested in learning about their options for breast reconstruction, along with growing awareness of studies showing breast reconstruction improves quality of life,” said Dr. Rod Rohrich, Chair of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Rohrich also is co-founder of the Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery Foundation (AIRS), which is dedicated to advocating and supporting a woman’s right to be made whole again after breast cancer surgery with breast reconstruction.

“To see that rise in breast reconstructive surgeries is an important indicator that educational outreach efforts are having an effect,” he said.

The Food and Drug Administration in 2013 approved several new plastic surgery devices and products, including form-stable silicone gel breast implants and a hyaluronic acid facial filler designed to treat mid-face volume loss, according to the ASPS, which also may help explain the rise in those related procedures. Use of soft tissue fillers rose 13 percent, while botulinum toxin type A injections, which are always at the top of the list, and chemical peels each increased by 3 percent. On the cosmetic side, facelifts, forehead lifts, neck lifts, and eyelid surgeries also were on the rise.

“The needle leads the knife in staying young, as one of the biggest increases again this year is the rise in minimally invasive cosmetic procedures,” Dr. Rohrich said. “With the continued strong interest, we continue to emphasize the importance of finding a certified plastic surgeon, so patients who are investing in their appearance get the best outcomes and don’t walk way frustrated from what should be a celebration.”

Dr. Rohrich researches the safety and effectiveness of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including studies on how the face ages and pioneering studies to map facial fat that help surgeons identify where fillers can be most useful.

“Fat grafting also has helped fuel a surge in the area of buttock augmentation,” Dr. Rohrich noted. “This procedure was almost unheard of in mainstream plastic surgery just 10 years ago, but it has seen a significant percentage increase – 16 percent – over the previous year.”

Fat grafting was the most-used option for buttock enhancement, followed by buttock lifting and buttock implants.

Hand surgeries also are on the rise, up 6 percent, the ASPS statistics showed. Hand surgeries are becoming less invasive thanks to advances in technologies such as endoscopic procedures and minimal access surgery, computer-assisted 3-D surgery, and innovative microsurgical techniques, said Dr. Douglas Sammer, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery and Chief of the UT Southwestern Plastic Surgery Hand Program.

“We can now effectively treat more hand injuries and conditions with small incisions, cameras, and medications rather than with large-scale operations,” said Dr. Sammer, whose research involves studying biomechanical techniques for repairing tendons. “In fact, many types of hand and peripheral nerve disorders don’t require surgery to resolve. Treatments include options that take less than an hour to perform, while providing immediate relief and improving function.”

For example, people with Dupuytren’s contracture, a thickening of tissue under the skin that causes fingers to contract, may be able to try the biologic drug Xiaflex, the first nonsurgical option approved by the FDA for treatment of the condition.

Endoscopic carpal tunnel release, one of the newest techniques for treating carpal tunnel syndrome, requires only a very small incision, Dr. Sammer said. A camera is then inserted into the carpal tunnel, and the nerve is decompressed. This option minimizes discomfort and reduces the recovery time for patients, said Dr. Sammer, who is exploring a possible connection between migraine headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Dr. Sammer also is leading groundbreaking work to reattach fingers using advanced microscopic and microsurgery techniques. In addition, Dr. Tae Chong, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery and Director of the Reconstructive Transplant Program in Plastic Surgery, is establishing the first hand transplant center in North Texas. Using advanced microsurgical techniques, hand and peripheral nerve specialists also can reconstruct arteries, veins, or nerves, restore blood flow, and transplant tissue within the body, such as a toe-to-thumb transplant.

Because of the delicate nature of these types of procedures, Dr. Sammer stresses the importance of selecting a surgeon who specializes in hand and peripheral nerve surgeries and who can offer a full range of treatment options, so that the best procedure is selected for the patient’s needs.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including five who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. Numbering more than 2,700, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 91,000 hospitalized patients and oversee more than 2 million outpatient visits a year.

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