Plastic surgery is becoming more commonplace by the day, with over 15 million cosmetic surgeries performed in the USA in 2014. More than ever, the science is forging new paths for patients, ranging from non-invasive surgeries to full-on face transplants. With no sign of slowing, what does the future hold for these procedures?
The dizzying array of cosmetic procedures made available is ever-growing. Breast augmentations are the top cosmetic surgical procedures, with around 286,000 procedures performed in 2014. Botox injections were at the top for minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, with 6.7 million Botox-filled needles put to use in 2014 across the United States.
With the technology and innovation available to them, plastic surgeons are currently able to do some incredible things. In November of 2015, Patrick Hardison, a firefighter from Missouri, was the recipient of the world’s most extensive face transplant. The 26-hour operation managed to successfully give Hardison a new face, scalp, ears and ear canals, as well as a partial chin. Procedures like Patrick Hardison’s are far from a mere cosmetic touch-up, but it shows how remarkably far science has led us.
If we are currently able to give someone an entirely new face, what incredible innovations will there be in the future? Dr. Patrick Byrne, director of plastic and reconstructive surgeries at John Hopkins Medicine, has speculated that we’ll see some sci-fi stuff over the next three decades. He said: ‘in 30 years, personalised tissue engineering will mean that physical structures (ears, windpipes, skin) can be grown in the lab.’
Tying into this is the evolution of medicine and its improving ability to control our immune systems. Such medicines would allow doctors to offer complicated procedures like face transplants to many more people, such as cancer patients who have lost body parts due to the disease.
These future advances in medicine have the potential to solve a host of problems for people, including the most debilitating of ailments. Dr. Byrne postulates that we will be able to solve paralysis in the not-too-distant future using tiny, electrical implants that will restore movement to paralysed limbs. The golden egg, though, is the potential to reverse the ageing process. Dr. Byrne said: ‘pharmaceutical and dietary treatments…will modify cellular apoptosis (cell death) as well as collagen breakdown.’
In short, these innovations could stop our bodies from getting older by changing how we are affected by our cells dying, as well as how our skin ages. And if Dr. Byrne is to be believed, in three decades we could start to see some of these incredible ideas come to light.