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Biomedical Research

Reconstructive Plastic Surgery: An Overview and Technology’s Role

Plastic surgery is often associated with cosmetic procedures, relating to the elective enhancement or change of one’s body or facial features. However, plastic surgery is not limited to this. Instead, reconstructive surgery is another vital segment.

Introduction

Plastic surgery is often associated with cosmetic procedures, relating to the elective enhancement or change of one’s body or facial features. In the modern age, this has been popularized by social media influencers. Thus, plastic surgery has taken on a reputation of being non-vital and less important than other fields like neurosurgery or cardio-thoracic surgery. However, plastic surgery is not limited to this. Instead, reconstructive surgery is another vital segment.

Reconstructure plastic surgery, on the other hand, is not cosmetic. It is completed on patients suffering from conditions and complications such as cancer, trauma, and deformities. This is meant to normalize their appearance or improve bodily function. Reconstructive plastic surgery is considered to be extremely diverse with many new innovations. Technology, such as augmented reality or the use of three-dimensional imaging is an important and useful part of reconstructive plastic surgery [1,2].

Technology

A Japanese research group created an augmented reality system, allowing surgeons to create a three-dimensional version of the results over the original. This involves the use of smart glasses, which project the image over a patient’s face during the procedure. This was designed to be simple and efficient, guiding the surgeons and ideally minimizing mistakes [3,4]. 

More recently, researchers at The University of Michigan created new technology that can aid surgeons in complex reconstructive microsurgery cases. Known as the “arterial everter” this device with a pen-like structure can essentially make the process of connecting arteries more efficient and simple. The amount of time saved with this device is not only beneficial to the patient, but to doctors and to the healthcare system as well. To provide a scenario, if a patient’s arm is heavily severed due to an accident, this device can be extremely beneficial to the surgeons in this case[5].

At UC Davis, plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Wong, has tested the benefits of using a high-tech camera in certain surgical cases, such as breast reconstructions. This device generates three-dimensional images allowing patients to see how their end result might look like. The camera is big in size and has multiple arms and lenses which take pictures from different angles, and creates a 3-D rendering through the use of computer software. Not only does this technology allow patients to be more satisfied, but it also allows surgeons to improve the quality of their work[6]. 

Cases

The youngest patient to undergo a facial transplant–Kattie Stubblefield–had suffered a gunshot wound. The majority of her face was destroyed, and she experienced severe brain injury. After 31 hours, a team of 40 surgeons, and 2 operating rooms, the Cleveland Clinic finished Kattie’s surgery, which is known to be the most substantial face transplant. The procedure required the replacement of all her facial tissue including the scalp, eye sockets, facial muscles, and other components. The primary plastic surgeon working in this case—Dr. Brian Gastman, MD detailed how complex these facial procedures are. The facial tissues from the donor were cut so as to retain function while being transferred to the patient. Then, augmented reality allowed her surgeons to know where to cut and to improve the placement. The use of augmented reality, in this case, comes with many benefits. According to Dr. Gastman, this technique allowed doctors to create ideas in advance and do more extensive modeling. 

Overall, technology in reconstructive plastic surgery has proven to be extremely beneficial, as it allows for fewer mistakes, better results, patients are more likely to be satisfied, and it can even make for a better teaching tool.

References

  1. Cosmetic vs Reconstructive Surgery ” UF Health Plastic Surgery and Aesthetics Center ” UF Academic Health Center ” University of Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://plastics.ufhealth.org/plastic-surgery-resources/knowledge-center/cosmetic-vs-reconstructive-surgery/
  1. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. (2019, December 28). Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/plastic-reconstructive-surgery-mayo-clinic/sections/overview/ovc-20473067
  2. Augmented Reality Technology May Help Guide Facial Reconstructive Surgery. (2017, November 28). Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://www.enttoday.org/article/augmented-reality-technology-may-help-guide-facial-reconstructive-surgery/
  3. How is technology transforming facial reconstruction surgery? – Medical Technology: Issue 25: March 2020. (2020, March 06). Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://medical-technology.nridigital.com/medical_technology_mar20/how_is_technology_transforming_facial_reconstruction_surgery
  4. Byline:, & News, N. (n.d.). U-M signs agreement for reconstructive surgery technology. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://record.umich.edu/articles/u-m-signs-agreement-reconstructive-surgery-technology/
  5. UC Davis Health, D. (n.d.). UC Davis plastic surgeon testing high-tech camera. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://health.ucdavis.edu/plasticsurgery/news/high_tech_camera.html

Kim, Y., Kim, H., & Kim, Y. (2017, May). Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Plastic Surgery: A Review. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447526/

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