Advances in Facial Rejuvenation – How They Occur by Paul S. Howard, MD

Facelift Alabama

Plastic Surgeon Birmingham Alabama

“Doc, how can you make me look better, fresher, and maybe even a little younger looking?”

The answer to this question depends on many variables, but actually is easy for each individual surgeon to answer.  In fact, all surgical advances begin with a patient asking a doctor his opinion on a problem that is bothersome to the patient.  In the early 1900’s, the question may have been, “Doc, can you get rid of this unsightly hump on my nose?”  Maybe it was a teenager who wondered if her protruding “Dumbo ears” could be set back.  In the 60’s it might have been, “Doc, what can you do for these fat deposits on my thighs?”  Each of these questions was first met with skepticism by the surgeon followed by a moment of reflection and ending with the promise to get back to the patient after having a chance to think about it.  These accumulated “moments of reflection” are the substance of hundreds of manuscripts and then textbooks describing all of the innovations that have become the essence of plastic surgery as we know it today.

Recently, the question that continues to arise refers to looking more youthful, but is tainted by the attempt of many surgeons and non-surgeons to answer this question with a multitude of poorly conceived procedures, potions, lotions, and quick fixes that frequently fail to provide the answer to the question.  Photos that are presented fail to show youthfulness and frequently are not honest and believable.

The part of this anti-aging scenario that surgeons have come closer to accomplishing is the anti-gravity part where the desire for a procedure that lifts drooping facial tissue, especially the cheeks, forehead and neck, is accomplished with minimal incisions, safe anesthetic techniques and a rapid recovery time to the resumption of normal activities.  These accomplishments in facelift surgery are actually recent because advancements only happen when our patients ask for them.  There came a time when massive swelling and bruising, general anesthetic and a month recovery was not good enough and patients asked for more (or less).  It became clear that simply tightening skin to elevate facial fat and remove wrinkles was a simplistic approach to facial rejuvenation.  Although lifting and tightening worked to a certain degree, it did little or nothing to address that facial deflation by the loss of fat is an integral component of the aging process.  The use of fat transplantation, as is has now been perfected, has provided a therapeutic answer to deflation while fulfilling basic plastic surgical principles as described by Ralph Millard, MD.  In a nutshell, fat transfer is the result of identifying a problem, replacing what is lost with tissue in-kind, all the while improving the donor site via liposuction – Dr. Millard would love it!

This is the magical point in the scenario where luck comes into play as it applies to the “law of unintended consequences.”  The smartest of our brethren saw it almost immediately, but the rest of us took a while to see that which was right in front of us.  Our fat grafts carried with them a myriad of growth factors, cytokines, and unknown chemicals that helped the grafts “take,” but also exerted their influence on the overlying skin; the last aspect of the aging face addressed surgically.  By the simplest of methods – observation – it was noticed that the skin was visibly improved by the fat grafts; it had more collagen, more elasticity, improved texture, and an improvement in the fine lines and wrinkles.  As our knowledge evolved it became clear that these secondary consequences were the result of the stem cells that we now know to exist within the fat grafts.  The next small step was to isolate the adipose-derived stem cells from the fat and reintroduce the stem cells to improve the “take” of the fat and add improvement to the skin.  The addition of other known growth factors found in platelets as PRP boosted the rejuvenation ability of fat grafts even more.  I think it has also become quite clear that depositing these rejuvenating aspects with an appropriate scaffold (fat) beneath the skin improves the results drastically from the awkward attempts to simply rub these against on the skin’s surface.  It follows that the best we can do from the surface is to accelerate the turnover of the skin cells and remove as many of the dead cells as possible; hoping to unveil the dermal and sub-dermal improvements obtained from our stem cell assisted lipo-transfer protocol.

What I have described is the way plastic surgical advances happen.  Doctors and patients have been dancing this question and answer Waltz for over a hundred years so it should be of no surprise that many of the questions were asked a hundred years ago, but the answers have only recently shown themselves to those who continue to look for them.

Call today for your consultation! 205-877-PAUL

Read more about Dr. Paul Howard and his minimal incision face lift.

The Stem Cell Revolution

The law of unintended consequences applies to President George W. Bush when he banned embryonic stem cell research.  The unintended consequence was the search for adult stem cells and the knowledge that there is an almost limitless amount of adult stem cells located in fat or adipose tissue.  This fact places plastic surgeons at the epicenter of the stem cell revolution.  Who better than a board certified plastic surgeon is in a position to obtain the necessary fat (liposuction) which is then processed to obtain adipose tissue derived stem cells?

These adipose derived stem cells can be utilized for a myriad of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.  For our purposes, these all-purpose stem cells are the basis of all of our facial and skin rejuvenation procedures.  It is a well-documented fact that stem cells, when reintroduced into the face, causes any fat which is re-injected, to “take” better and as a secondary benefit the stem cells release a number of “growth factors” that improve  skin by reducing the visible signs of aging.

It is important to realize that you cannot share your stem cells with anyone else nor can you use stem cells from another person. The fat must be processed immediately and re-injected with the stem cells during the same operation as it is difficult to store adipose tissue for further use.  We have developed a “stem cell lab” within the confines of our sterile operating room.  The lab equipment costs little and only requires basic laboratory experience (such as the experience obtained with a B.S. in Chemistry).

Every medical breakthrough goes through stages.  First, there is disbelief followed by hyperbole.  The hyperbole stage is manifest by over hyping the benefits and the beginning of named procedures such as the “Stem Cell Lift” which basically does not exist.  Realistically, stem cells do not tighten skin or “lift” anything.  They are a great addition to volume enhancement by increasing the take of fat grafts and clearly stem cells cause your skin to rejuvenate by erasing age spots, increase skin thickness, and improve fine lines and wrinkles.  Most patients who have had our stem cell rejuvenation describe their skin as smoother and typically glowing.  Stem cell augmented fat transfer has become a staple in our rejuvenation procedures and at a minimal charge to the patient.

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard and view facelift before/after photos.