Is reconstructive surgery the next frontier in facial plastic surgery?

Researchers at the University of Virginia review data on reconstructive surgery

A group of researchers from the University of Virginia in the US has explored whether regenerative medicine is the next frontier in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in a new review article.

Regenerative surgery refers to the process of repairing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to establish normal function by adding therapeutic growth factors and cells, sometimes in addition to tissue-compatible support. This can aid people suffering from burns or wounds, for example.

The report’s authors, including Jared Christophel et al, argued that “perhaps the biggest advances in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in the coming years will be the result of regenerative medicine techniques”. They explained that regenerative medicine is not about rebuilding missing tissue, as commonly referenced in sci-fi, but rather about unlocking the regenerative potential of allografts and flaps, which are the foundation of surgical reconstruction.

Published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, the researchers looked at techniques in regenerative medicine including stem cells, growth factors and synthetic scaffolds, and platelet-rich plasma.

The study’s authors said that in reviewing existing literature, they found that these strategies have produced “very promising results” and that regenerative medicine has the potential to augment conventional treatment options in the facial plastic and reconstructive surgery subspecialty.

They now recommend that the plastic surgery industry focuses on investigating these innovative techniques further, with the hope of improving the outcome of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery without adding to the risk of treatments.

In the report’s conclusion, the authors said: “Regenerative medicine is an exciting field with the potential to change standards of care in FPRS.”