Cosmetic Surgery

You know, let's put it this way, if all the people in Hollywood who have had plastic surgery, if they went on vacation, there wouldn't be a person left in town - Michael Jackson

Cosmetic Surgery

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What will plastic and reconstructive surgery look like in 30 years? I think it’s interesting to consider both the supply side of the question—what new technologies will exist in three decades—as well as the demand side. What will people need?

Today’s surgeons offer an array of options that would have been unimaginable in previous generations, as innovation has been accelerated by demand. Tissue engineering breakthroughs, hand and facial transplantation, and a dizzying array of “biologic products” (reconstructive materials derived from living organisms) have entered the mainstream of our field in the past several years.

In 30 years, personalized tissue engineering will mean that physical structures (ears, windpipes, skin) can be “grown in the lab” and implanted successfully to restore form and function. We also will get better at controlling the immune system, allowing the transplantation of complex structures (limbs, faces, etc.) to a much broader range of patients, even those who have had body parts removed because of cancer.

Tiny implants will use electrical conduction and novel materials to restore movement to areas of paralysis. Medical breakthroughs will slow and perhaps even reverse the aging process—including the external manifestations of aging. These breakthroughs will yield pharmaceutical and dietary treatments that will modify cellular apoptosis (programmed cell death) as well as collagen breakdown and other skin and soft-tissue changes that result in an aged appearance.

Each of these innovations will spur additional demand for treatment, as providers seek solutions for patients with deformity and dysfunction as a result of trauma, cancer and congenital malformation.

Demand, of course, isn’t static. We already see far fewer devastating facial fractures in recent years as a result of seat-belt and air-bag laws. Will the driverless car dramatically alter the practices of the urban trauma surgeons of the future? Will dramatic advances in cancer treatments reduce the need for reconstructive surgery? We can hope.

One source of demand will not change, however. The desire to look young and attractive will not abate. Thirty years from now, there will be much more demand than now as our society not only ages, but also does so with greater vitality than ever before.

Source: Patrick J. Byrne, The Future of Plastic Surgery, The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2015.

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Last Updated : Sunday, September 29, 2019