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Study Reveals Facial Aging Does Not Occur Uniformly
(press release from ASPS)
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Plastic surgeons are tossing out the old-school belief that gravity is the
primary culprit for facial aging. A study in June's Plastic and Reconstructive
Surgery(R), the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic
Surgeons (ASPS), reveals the human face is made up of distinct fat compartments
that individually change with age and the degree to which our faces age is
dependent, in part, on how these compartments change over time.
"Contrary to popular belief, the human face does not age uniformly," said Joel
Pessa, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study lead author. "We thought facial fat was
one confluent mass that eventually got weighed down by gravity, creating sagging
skin. However, we were shocked to find not only is the face made up of
individual fat compartments but these compartments gain and lose fat at
According to Dr. Pessa, the face is a three-dimensional puzzle with fat
partitioned into discrete units around the forehead, eye, cheek and mouth. A
youthful face is characterized by a smooth transition between these
compartments, but as we get older abrupt contour changes occur between these
regions due to volume loss, volume gains, and repositioning of the compartments.
These changes lead to tell-tale signs of facial aging such as sagging or
hollowed skin and wrinkles.
With this breakthrough, plastic surgeons will be able to more accurately
pinpoint trouble areas and use injectable fillers to add volume to individual
sections of the face, creating a more effective way to turn back the clock.
According to the study, this discovery may also benefit cancer and trauma
patients who require reconstructive plastic surgery. The authors uncovered that
the individual fat compartments have boundaries between them that act like
fences. These fences allow the face to maintain its blood supply should it
become injured. This anatomical discovery may allow for better results for
reconstructive plastic surgery patients. In addition, plastic surgeons can begin
to use this new way of thinking to better understand facial deformities, such as
cleft lips and vessel tumors.
"Much of facial anatomy remains a mystery," said Dr. Pessa. "This discovery will
undoubtedly play a role in how we view aging and how we approach facial
reconstructive plastic surgery."
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of
board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the
Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic
and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 90 percent of all
board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the
Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery
or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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