The Fallacy of “Stem Cell Facelifts”-the Verdict

In addition to  facial rejuvenation, buttock  and breast augmentation, stem cell marketing has reached such peaks that one may posit that they harbor the solution for global warming.

Postulated uses of stem cells
Postulated uses of stem cells
A recent study came out in our esteemed, peer-reviewed journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery addressing stem cell enriched fat transfer versus “regular” fat transfer  (PRS Journal: stem cell rich fat transfer). In essence, this study showed there was no difference in the effects of a fat transfer whether it was enriched with stem cells or not. This was essentially the same conclusion of a blog post I wrote a few years back. However, what makes this news different is that it comes from  a well-designed, randomized prospective study.

You may then ask yourself why are there so many doctors promoting  stem cell facelifts and fat transfers as being the chalice of youth or life’s elixir to immortality and aging. The simple answer is finance and marketing. By promoting your fat transfer as being different, labeling it with the trendy buzz prefix of “stem cell”, prospective patients will naturally think they are getting something better, longer-lasting and more natural.

You may then ask yourself why their before-and-after photos are impressive. The simple answer is that for every before-and-after photo of a stem cell-enriched fat transfer there are 10 equally-as-impressive before-and-after results from regular fat transfers. The bottom line is that one can achieve equivalent results from a regular, well-performed fat transfer-specifically, one in which the fat is appropriately harvested, cleaned and transferred by the physician with precision and artistry. Fat is basically serving as a filler, but one that is extraordinary. Extraordinary because it is not only permanent but is actually living as well-consequently it can grow or shrink depending if the patient gains or loses weight, respectively.

Stem cell embryonicStem cell science is in its infancy and we have much to learn. Indeed, many stem cell scientists now believe that the byproducts  of stem cells (cytokines, etc)  play a  far more important role in healing than the actual stem cells themselves.Fat is a rich source of stem cells but to assume that the stem cells, when transplanted into the face, can miraculously know how to uniquely reverse aging is pipe-dreaming at best.



Randal Haworth M.D., F.A.C.S.
Beverly Hills

You do not need to look surprised after a BrowLift

Better late than never! This is the second part of a blog I wrote almost one year ago about the upper blepharoplasties and brow lifts. Brow lifts are often confused and considered part of a facelift but they are not. A facelift deals with rejuvenating the areas below the lower eyelids including the midface, jowls, jawline and neck.

I am honored to be giving a talk to my esteemed plastic surgical colleagues at the California Society of Facial Plastic Surgeons annual meeting in Lake Tahoe this March. The purpose of my talk is to share my thoughts not only of brow elevation but also of controlling and creating the ideal brow shape. Ironically, as I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room having just listened to 6 hours’ worth of talks from other plastic surgeons about brow lifts and shaping as part of a meeting for the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. As always, I come back from these meetings with one or two pearls that I am keen to incorporate into my practice to provide the best possible results for my patients.

However, I think that most surgeons miss the point about brow reshaping. We all understand that we want the tail end of the brow to sweep upwards in a glamorous yet subtle arch without creating a surprised or malevolent/samurai look (think Carrot Top or Cruella DeVille). Unfortunately, the techniques to achieve that fall short of their stated goals. Surgeons apply tension through hidden incisions behind the temple hairline in a effort to raise the outside aspect of the eyebrow, but this is soon met with diminishing returns. As in all aspects of plastic surgery, simply applying more tension to a region that is resisting movement will not will not provide long lasting elevation. After a few weeks to months, mother nature wins and the structure (in this case the outside aspect of the brow) will fall down again.

Endoscopic brow lifts are beautifully elegant operations that are performed through 2 cm hidden incisions within the hair which do not involve shaving or cutting out skin. Most surgeons, as I mentioned, will attempt to lift up the outside aspect of the brow by angling the incisions outwards on the side of the head to apply upward tension through them. Unfortunately, much resistance is encountered and the results reflect that. In a counterintuitive move, I have angled the inner incisions towards the midline and have found that I can lift the outer aspect of the brows almost effortlessly with minimal tension. The results are long-lasting and more simulate the appealing eyebrow shape of a young cover girl.

Check out the following 31 year-old patient who underwent a brow lift along with fat transfer, chin implant and a minor rhinoplasty:

I feel that brow lifts are sometimes misunderstood creatures. They are under appreciated and when performed correctly provide extremely beautiful results that not only rejuvenate the forehead, reduce wrinkles, elevate and reshape the brows while rejuvenating the upper eyelids. 70% of patients that come to my office complaining of upper eyelid sagging and all they simply need is a well performed modern endoscopic brow lift.

 slightly weak chin and a subtle bulbous nasal tip

31-year-old female with noticeable facial asymmetry with low-set brows. Of note, she also had slightly weak chin and a subtle bulbous nasal tip

exquisite improvement in brow position and shape

Three month follow-up showing exquisite improvement in brow position and shape. Note how her face and eyes “open up”

Preoperative photograph showing the oblique view

Preoperative photograph showing the oblique view of the same patient.

 three-month follow-up of the same patient demonstrating the chin augmentation as well as the minor change to her nasal tip

A three-month follow-up of the same patient demonstrating the chin augmentation as well as the minor change to her nasal tip. Again, note the improved brow position and shape without any look of surprise.”

Now that you had surgery, drains are your new BFF?

At the risk of sounding like I’m standing on a soapbox, I shall repeat my mantra once again . . . how well you follow up with your post-op aftercare instructions is nearly as important as what we do in the OR. Following these protocols conscientiously can ensure a positive outcome just as ignoring them can sabotage your final results.

Remember, the doctor and the patients are a team.

This is particularly true of drains. When you wake up from surgeries involving deep incisions and dissections involving an appreciable amount of surface area such as of abdominoplasties (tummy Tucks), facelifts and browlifts you’ll likely have one, two or sometimes even three tubes coming out of small incisions, each attached a suction bulb drain. They’re unsightly, true. They’re inconvenient, yes. They can be messy, absolutely. But for the duration – and this can be anywhere from 1 to ten days – that you’ll be living with them, your drains are your new body’s BFF or at least very trusted ally!

Let’s back up a minute. When surgery is performed, it is a fact that the innumerable microscopic blood vessels and lymphatic channels are cut. As a result they leak fluid in the postoperative period. Consequently, any space that was surgically created (for example, between skin and deeper muscle layer) can fill up with this fluid as opposed to getting rapidly absorbed by the body. Drains are placed within this surgically created space in order to rapidly evacuate the fluid as it is produced. The fluid in your drain, which will diminish over time, is comprised of a physiological mixture of blood and serum. As you empty the drain twice a day, recording the amount of fluid tell us the rate of decreasing fluid production and how your body is healing.

The advantages of sporting your drains for the prescribed time cannot be underestimated. Removing drains too quickly can result in untoward fluid accumulation in a surgical space potentially necessitating uncomfortable intervention afterwards to remove it. Leaving drains in the body for the appropriate amount of time will actually decrease your healing time by minimizing fluid buildup and prolonged swelling by fostering rapid adherence of the various layers to close the surgical space.

Drain connected to a self suction "grenade" style collection chamber
Drain connected to a self suction “grenade” style collection chamber
So please keep these in mind during the initial phase of your recovery if you find yourself getting annoyed. Soon enough, you’ll be in the office and we’ll remove them. Meanwhile, if you can view your drains in a positive light rather than as an unpleasant burden, it’ll make all the difference in the world.

Can plastic surgery buy you happiness (especially if you are on Adderall) :)?

  “Plastic surgery won’t make you happy, but it can make you happier”

I think most sentient human beings will agree that the world it’s becoming a crazier place in which to live. We are constantly bombarded by negative imagery, negative stories, negative experiences, negative people while reminded that we are not good enough to fit the ideal as embodied by the media’s ambassadorial cadre of celebrities and certain reality stars. In more recent years, I am seeing an uptick in the amount of negative patients in my practice. I have learned to better recognize them and avoid operating on them as best I can.

Why do I do this?

The answer is simple. I avoid operating on them to better serve them . My staff and I at the Haworth Institute adhere to a basic principle of delivering the best service possible in order to maximally satisfy our patients. Yet, even if I perform the most exemplary plastic surgery and the patient is not happy with the results, then I have failed. In other words, the objective assessment of the surgical results does not match the subjective one of the patient. There are reasons for this break from reality, such as body dysmorphic syndrome and a patient’s own internal anger, discontentment, strife or call it what you will. There is much written about body dysmorphia but little is discussed about the latter situation-the angry, malcontent. Many times, these people come to a plastic surgeon seeking out surgical transformation for the wrong reasons, thinking that the surgery itself will bring a positive change in their life. When that doesn’t transpire and the patient realizes that they are still the same unhappy soul, all hell can break loose for both patient and caregiver because of unrealistic expectations. This may become a greater incendiary situation when a patient is taking Adderall or some other amphetamine-related prescription medication. Consequently, plastic surgeons should be aware of this heretofore anecdotal correlation prior to operating on anyone taking Adderall or equivalent since this may be a predictor of both disproportionate patient disappointment and anger.

I now have come up with the following saying within the last month which resonates with both my staff and myself:  “Plastic surgery will not make you happy, but it can make you happier.” In simple terms, this allows me to assess whether a patient is fundamentally happy and balanced prior to operating on them. I’m sure that there will be a few patients that still slip through the cracks, so to speak, but if I can manage to avoid operating on the majority of angry, unhappy patients then I know in my heart that I did serve them well.

Coincidently, this article just came out today about plastic surgery and happiness:

C’mon get happy! Plastic surgery can help 🙂

Dr. HAWORTH is a board-certified (American Board of Plastic Surgery) plastic surgeon located in Beverly Hills. His specialties include all aspects of aesthetic facial and breast plastic surgery, including rhinoplasty, revision rhinoplasty, facelifts, lip reshaping and breast augmentation. For further information go to drhaworth.com