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New scalpel offers plastic surgery advantages

April 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The downsides to getting a facelift are usually the recovery time and the cost, but now there's new technology that offers a kinder, gentler procedure. There's a new type of scalpel that can heal as it cuts. Does it perform as promised?Fifty-seven-year-old interior designer Leon Pascucci wanted to re-energize his face. The result was a much stronger jaw line compared to six months ago.

"Well, it's a competitive world and I was feeling that I looked a little old and tired," said Pascucci.

But he couldn't afford to be off from work for long, so he opted for a new "mini-face-lift" procedure that helped him get back on the job in four days.

"Yes, I needed to get back into the workplace and get back to my life," said Pascucci. "I didn't want to be laid up for a long time, and I wasn't, so it was perfect."

The new device is called the UltraCision harmonic scalpel. Pascucci's plastic surgeon says the tool made all the difference to his healing. It's been used for years in neural and thoracic surgery.

"Harmonic technology is something that is brand new to plastic surgery and the advantages that it has over traditional surgery are that it's much more gentle to the tissues, so the patients enjoy a much quicker recovery," said plastic surgeon Dr. Marc Mani.

The blade on the harmonic scalpel pulsates 50,000 times per second. Now you don't see it, but doctors say when it touches human tissue it cuts and seals at the same time.

The scalpel denatures proteins around the blood vessels so it creates a more permanent seal around the blood vessel with less tissue trauma.

Carla Grayson had her harmonic facelift done a year ago and she was awake the whole time. Avoiding general anesthesia saved her a few thousand dollars off her surgery bill.

"So that was actually very helpful for me because it didn't ruin my pocketbook," said Grayson.

But other plastic surgeons say some mini-face-lifts done with a traditional scalpel are done without general anesthesia already and while a harmonic scalpel can reduce bleeding and swelling, in well-trained hands the new device would not improve recovery time over a regular scalpel by very much.

Dr. Mani disagrees.

"The harmonic scalpel has a little more nuance to using it and that's part of the advantage," said Dr. Mani. "Once a surgeon had mastered it it has huge advantages in doing the surgery also."

It's completely different from a traditional scalpel, so Dr. Mani says it's important for patients to look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with a lot of experience in this technology.

Leon Pascucci says he was thrilled with his quick recovery and results.

"And everyone said I looked so fresh and they said I looked good. They didn't say I looked younger, I just looked fresher, healthy, so that's fine," said Pascucci.


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