The evolution of plastic surgery

The pace at which technology has evolved has been truly fascinating in the various areas of science, and health is no exception.

Nowadays, we take for granted some concepts and facilities that didn’t exist just a few years ago, and which we can quickly analyse in a simple routine consultation: from the potential appointment by computer or mobile phone; to using the computer to carry out the consultation and all the records; to requesting complementary diagnostic tests with increasing diagnostic sensitivity and specificity – such as computed tomography (popularly known as CT) or magnetic resonance imaging; to receiving these same tests digitally or receiving medicines on a mobile phone.

In healthcare, surgery has evolved dramatically. Today, surgeries that 30 years ago were truly human feats can be performed routinely and safely. Improvements in anaesthetic care, the development of drugs and the appearance of the electrocautery (known as the electric scalpel) now make it possible to perform surgeries with minimal blood loss and with great safety due to improved visibility.

Plastic surgery is at the forefront of this evolution.

Knowledge is now global. And the advantages for patients are more than obvious. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s possible to hold consultations in Lisbon in the morning, operate on patients in the afternoon and meet via video call with a multidisciplinary team in Germany or Switzerland in the evening.

Working together with a team of biomedical engineers, designers and biomaterials specialists allows for the realisation of “custom-made” implants.

These meetings, which I hold frequently, are fundamental because they allow us to carry out 3D computerised planning – in a simplistic way, we can assess any surgical patient on the computer and understand which area needs to be addressed – whether it’s a jaw reconstruction due to a tumour or a breast or chest reconstruction due to any other pathology. From here, and with great precision, we can realise what defect we have or will have during the surgery and make implants tailor-made for that patient. Although the only current disadvantage is the cost of this planning and these implants, the advantages are obvious – better surgical preparation, custom-made materials with a perfect fit, superior functional and aesthetic results associated with reduced operating times.

The art of plastic surgery is present in every operation. And although the results will always depend on the surgeon’s sensitivity and creativity, the combination of technologies has brought predictability and improvement that is here to stay.

We need to pace ourselves to keep up with this evolution, but I have the expectation and hope that this technological evolution will soon be associated with the vast majority of reconstructions – already carried out in the main differentiated Hospital Centres.

In the meantime, we’re moving forward and evolving, and for me there are few feelings greater than the feeling of fulfilment after helping a patient with a complex reconstruction.

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