Made-to-order tissue, practice runs and machine learning – just a few of the advances in surgery facilitated by scientific research and technology – are coming thick and fast, with ground-breaking implications for safer cosmetic surgery in the future.
Here are five routes to safer cosmetic surgery, drawing on some of the very latest scientific advances:
Routes to safer cosmetic surgery:
1. Off-the-shelf tissue
Engineered tissues provide a foundation for replacing or regenerating hard or soft tissue, taking away the need for additional surgery to remove tissue from another part of the patient’s body. Tissue engineering has already been used in medical procedures, and in the future may allow for lab-designed ears, windpipes and skin to be implanted onto a patient.
This could prove a huge breakthrough in reconstructive surgery, especially for skin graft procedures or for patients who have suffered some other severe physical trauma.
Lasers have a much bigger part to play beyond removing imperfections and unwanted hair. Today’s equipment can tighten tissue with great precision, creating additional non-invasive options and reducing the need for open surgery.
Laser surgery is a technology with many different factions and functions. For example, “fractional” laser treatment can improve the appearance of scars caused by acne as well as age spots, while “Titan” laser treatment channels energy deep into the skin to stimulate collagen growth, leading to tighter skin.
3. Planning and practice runs
Using simulations to practice a procedure, along with computerised planning based on the patient’s CT scans, an operation can be finely honed into a well-versed, personalised solution, thus reducing the amount of operation time and in turn the safety of the procedure.
The less time spent in surgery, the safer it is for the patient, not to mention the lower the costs. Just one hour of planning can equate to a two-hour reduction of time spent in the operating room
4. Machine learning for safer cosmetic surgery
Machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence, involves using machines to translate complex clinical data into important patterns. For example, using large datasets of facial images machine learning can assist surgeons in planning facial aesthetic surgeries and guiding patient’s choices. While computer algorithms can’t entirely replace trained expertise, machine learning, which is largely about understanding big data, is already showing massive potential in its contribution to reconstructive surgery, particularly at the stage of careful pre-operative planning, improving accuracy and the safety of the surgery
5. Nutrient education
While the above advancements contribute to safer surgery, there may come a time when anti-ageing procedures such as fillers and facelifts won’t be needed at all. Medical experts are predicting pharmaceutical and dietary breakthroughs which could slow or even reverse the ageing process.
By addressing the hallmarks of ageing, including genomic instability and telomere length, medical experts are able to identify foods which can specifically combat them. For example, genomic instability refers to mutations in our DNA, which contribute to ageing and heighten our risk of disease. By looking after our gut, which hosts 70% of our immune system, with the right foods, we could help reduce inflammation and control damaging free radicals.
These five areas of exploration highlight how cosmetic surgery is constantly in the throes of transformation, as incremental advances translate into breakthroughs, with the potential for making procedures not only safer, but more accessible and more successful than ever before.