Count Dracula and the “Vampire Facelift™”

Vampire Stem Cell Face Lift

Count Vlad’s Castle in Romania. Dr. Paul S. Howard visited Romania several years ago to operate on orphaned children born with facial deformities.

Author Anne Rice benefited from the allure of the Vampire in pop culture where there has always been a certain interest in all things Romania.  From Count Vlad “the Impaler,” to the gypsy culture and even gymnast Nadia Comaneci have all fueled interest in the darkest of the former Eastern Bloc Soviet satellite countries.  Our fascination with Romanian people may stem from their unique Eastern European history.  The Romanian is proud of his Dacian ancestry making their culture and language more like that in Rome than their geographic neighbors which are Slavic countries such as Hungary, Serbia, Moldavia, and Bulgaria.

The myth that is Dracula has a basis in fact steeped in the history of Romania and the Dark Ages of Europe.  Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, member of the House of Draculesti, known by the patronymic name Dracula was born in Transylvania in 1431.  The translation of the name Dracula comes from his father Vlad Dracula, meaning “dragon” or “devil.”  Vlad III was known in his adult life as the son of the devil.  It was only after his death in 1476 that he became known as tepes or “the spike,” alluding to his famous battles with the Islamic Turks and his father’s battles with the Boyer Family for the thrown of Wallachia.  Both the Boyers and the Turks were “spiked” or impaled as punishment and as a deterrent.  Thus, Vlad “The Impaler” was born.  It was left to the Irish author, Bram Stoker, to rekindle the Dracula legend as well as embellish it to include the Vampire myth in his 1899 gothic horror novel, Dracula.

The recent fascination with the Vampire myth was stoked by any number of books including those by Ann Rice and the TV series Vampire Chronicles.  It comes as no surprise that medical marketing would jump into the Vampire craze even though the institution of Vampire tales is beginning to wear thin even in pop culture.  We now have a non-surgeon entering the pop-culture marketplace with the so called “Vampire Facelift.”  The connection with vampires is interesting in that vampires are a Gothic myth with no factual basis much like the vampire Facelift™ is more of a New Age myth with no basis in fact.  The connection to Vampire culture is through the use of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) as an adjunct to the use of temporary foreign fillers (Juvederm™, Restylane™) to effect some sort of facial rejuvenation akin to the well-worn “Liquid Lift™.  Fillers plus PRP equals the Vampire Facelift™.

Platelet Rich Plasma is obtained by drawing blood from the patient’s arm (not the neck as in vampire-lore), and by processing the blood one obtains platelet poor plasma (PPP) and platelet rich plasma.  The most well-known use of PPP is “fibrin glue,” a soft tissue sealant used in many kinds of surgery.  PRP has a bewildering array of uses, but all of the known benefits come from the activation and stimulation of growth factors and cytokines.  These are necessary for cellular activity which benefits blood supply, healing and specifically the “take” of fat grafts mediated through the activation of stem cells.

Recently it has come to light that activated stem cells and PRP have a beneficial effect on aging skin causing increased collagen synthesis, may be helpful to increase elasticity and is believed to improve skin texture as well.

Platelet Rich Plasma, coming from blood, has many important functions, but none of these functions create volume nor “lift” tissues in any way.  Additionally, PRP is very easy to obtain from blood.  The actual skill involved is drawing the blood which is easily processed to PRP, is easy to activate with calcium and thrombin, and actually is a source of protein when swallowed (vampire’s diet).

Utilization of PRP is a useful adjunct for facial rejuvenation, but in and of itself has not shown to have much of a rejuvenating effect.  The addition of temporary fillers does not improve what is already known about the temporary volumizing effect of hyaluronic acid based fillers.  The two together serve to prove the uselessness of trademark laws as applied to medical science.

Dr. Paul Howard is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

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What the Hell is a Consultationist?

I, and many other who enjoy the English language, have been wondering which new words would be added to the lexicon of America.  These new words, or neologisms, are usually chosen by a group of exudate linguists to be included according to the extent of pervasiveness of their usage.  This begs an answer to today’s question: what the hell is a consultationist?

Upon checking Webster’s and Harper Collins dictionaries, no reference is made for the noun consultationist.  The closest reference is for consultation which we all know means an appointment or meeting to seek professional advice especially from doctors or lawyers.  It is through this prism that the term consultationist has come into my practice universe and the lexicon of Plastic Surgery.  Apparently in certain Plastic Surgery mass-marketing schemes, the number of patients seeking information is much greater than the doctors available to provide information thus leading to a new paradigm for Plastic Surgery practice by placing the here-to-fore unknown consultationist into the complex surgical information loop.  Naturally, not every Plastic Surgeon answers every contact for surgical information, but we all provide detailed information to our office staff who field those questions from the public.  The flow of accurate information through surgical surrogates called consultationists to the patient seems fraught with uncertainty proportional to the number of individual surgeons responsible for the information provided by surrogates.  The information provided, by necessity, must be wholly generic in nature as no one but the Plastic Surgeon can provide the necessary depth of knowledge and experience to provide anything approaching a real consultation.  These new Plastic Surgery mass-marketing schemes, in addition to spending millions of dollars on TV, radio, print, and internet, have actually added a layer of advertising bureaucracy as the information requests are funneled through a new layer of marketing specialists called consultationists.  These new patient calls have become “sales leads” rather than actual consultations.

This new marketing centered paradigm created a number of questions all of which surround the activities of the newly minted consultationist.  For instance, who are these people, how are they reimbursed, what is their background and training, and who decides what they say and who do they report to: the physicians, marketing director, or corporate management, or all of the above?  Is the protection and dissimulation of the brand primary or does accurate surgical information take precedence?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, the marketing consultationist has added an entirely new level of bureaucracy that can only be financially justified if information requests turn into actual doctor consultations.

Clearly it serves no purpose for any prospective patient to be denied a real consultation so the information flow through consultationists carries no more weight than any well-crafted patient directed web site.  The web site will certainly answer the single most important question at any consultation: who is your doctor?

It seems this one single question which would seemingly be the easiest to answer during any real consultation is usually the hardest question for a consultationist to answer generally depending on how many doctors are the recipients of this marketing service or sales lead.

I’m not sure I have been able to actually answer my initial question: What the hell is a consultationist?  My best research tells me a consultationist is but a cog in the marketing paradigm for certain large companies that endeavor to sell some kind of trademarked surgical procedure in some generic fashion.   The challenge is to maximize the marketing of the procedure, even if the procedure is not proprietary or in any way original.

The focus of the expert marketing must maximize the procedure and minimize the surgeon because each surgeon is an individual, but the procedure is universal and much more available as a marketing center piece.  This type of marketing plan when well executed can be enormously effective unless the “generic” surgeon pool is depleted or becomes technically antiquated and changes do not keep apace the market for facial rejuvenation.  Many of the predictable corporate problems are a result of the realities of size and success.  Time will be the arbiter regarding consultationists.  In the meantime, most of us will try to muddle on without them.

Read more about top face lift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard and his minimal incision, quick recovery facelift.

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon specializing in Facelift

Who is a Candidate for the One Week Facelift? by Paul S. Howard, MD

It is axiomatic that all facelifts are different and certainly one cannot recover from all facelifts in a single week.  What I wish to describe is the optimal situation from both the patient’s point-of-view and the surgical perspective.  Choosing the right patient with application of the correct facelift procedure under optimal anesthetic conditions will usually yield the quickest recovery: one week from my perspective.

Who is the best candidate for the facelift procedure?  Ideally, the best candidates for facelift are women between 40 and 60, healthy, non-smokers, with the proper motivation and support.  More specifically our ideal patient is active and actually benefits from a return to normal activity in a week.  As with any surgical procedure, the difficulty and extent of deformity provided by the patient is important.  In the perfect world described here, our female patient has moderate aging of the cheeks with early marionette lines, somewhat deepened nasolabial folds and the presence of the “bubble” of cheek fat tissue obscuring the jawline.  Once these conditions exist, there is no amount of injecting or fillers that can camouflage or “lift” tissues to redefine the jawline.  Some skin elasticity remains as opposed to our older patients with “leather” skin, and a multitude of deep wrinkles indicated a total loss of elasticity.  Weathered skin is usually due to extensive sun exposure without sun-block, as well as environment toxins and smoking.  These older patients with skin elasticity problems are still candidates for facial rejuvenation, but the operations are more extensive and cannot be recovered in one week.  Minor aging of the neck can also be treated simultaneously and does not prolong our one week recovery.

We try to address as many skin quality problems as possible pre-operatively.  We prescribe the nightly use of a Retin-A, hydroquinone, steroid solution as well as a cleansing facial treatment pre-operatively if possible.  We frequently recommend lower blepharoplasty with our midface lift and thus recommend an eye exam prior to blepharoplasty in most cases.  Previous surgery for cataracts or glaucoma is noted as the post-operative incidence of swelling in the form of a chemosis is more likely in these patients and may take more than a week to resolve with prescription eye drops.

Optimal anesthetic conditions include the use of local anesthesia with sedation rather than general anesthesia.  The control of blood pressure within a narrow range of the pre-operative value is necessary to minimize swelling and bruising that is expected when emergence from general anesthesia is necessary.  Aspirin and NSAIDS are stopped 2 weeks pre-operatively, and Bromelein and Arnica are recommended peri-operatively.  The liberal use of ice on and around the eyes with constant head elevation, regional blocks for peri-orbital anesthesia, and minimal injections directly in the ultra-thin eyelid skin reduce the chances for injection bruising in the lids.

The most important discussion to lessen edema, bruising, and to expedite recovery within one week is the choice of the mid-facelift and the details of its performance.  Lapsing into technical jargon, our lift is a short-incision mini-lift with a multi-vector, progressive tension SMAS plication.  The combination of techniques results in an aggressive lift with a minimal of undermined skin resulting in minimal “dead space” to accumulate blood or fluid.  For this small area of undermined skin, we have further developed a system of “micro-drains” utilizing vacutainer tubes as the collection/suction mechanism.  These 21 gauge drains are effective for removing any possible fluid collections and are removed at 24 hours post-operatively.  These small drains are incorporated into 24 hour post-op compression dressing, and in most cases the patients don’t know they exist.  The light compression dressing is augmented with “rest-on foam” on the neck and adjacent to the peri-auricular incisions.  This foam is also removed at 24 hours and is replaced by an ace bandage to compress the dependent portion of the neck and to protect the ears, especially at night.  The neck compression is important to achieve our goal of one week to “street-ability.”

Incision care is of the utmost importance to achieve our goals.  Gentle cleansing using peroxide once a day with careful application of Aquafor, especially around and behind the ear where it is difficult to see and for the dissolvable lower eye-lid stitches.  If the lower led sutures are allowed to dry, they will become brittle and will not dissolve on schedule at about 5 days.  The nylon sutures about the ear and in the submental neck are removed at 5 days except for a few “key” sutures in areas of tension.  These key sutures are removed on day 7.

Lastly, a word or two on the general aspects of healing.  It should go without saying that a calm, smoke-free, supportive environment is important to have the mindset to heal uneventfully.  We request careful attention to the instructions provided and the comfort to call at any time if any uncertainty arises.  All of the medications are provided for a reason and should be taken exactly as prescribed.  We will go over all of your medications in detail with you so there are no mis-understandings regarding when to resume them.  Controlled activity beginning post-operatively day one is important.  There will be three office visits during the first week and of course these are very important.  It is probably equally important for your mental recovery to parallel your physical recovery.  Although we aim for your physical recovery to be well along at one week so that you can be in public, your recovery will continue for many weeks and months to total normality.  We use serial photography to allow you to follow your recovery visually, which in most cases, helps your physical recovery and state-of-mind as well.  You will receive copies of all photos as well as the constant reminder of your pre-op condition with a set of your before photos as well.

We believe that we are all “goal oriented” people and that goals for life as well as for recovery from surgery are important.  Our goal for you is a one week recovery and we will provide you all of the tools necessary to achieve this goal.

Read more about Dr. Paul Howard, Plastic Surgeon Birmingham, Alabama and view facelift before and after photos.

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