Monday, November 30, 2009
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of medicine have picked up $1.6 million to perfect a fat grafting technique that the team hopes will help wounded soldiers return to a more normal life. Associate professor of surgery J. Peter Rubin is the head of the team awarded the Department of Defense grant. The doctors will use new regenerative tissue technologies and new medical instruments to transfer fat from one part of the patient’s body to his or her face. Rubin says, “As many as 26 percent of wounded soldiers suffer some kind of facial injury, which can have a huge impact on quality of life. While we can reconstruct bony structures very well, it is the surrounding soft tissues that give people a recognizable face. This project will investigate how soft tissue grafting can more precisely restore facial form and improve the lives of our wounded soldiers.” Rubin says the wounds received in combat are often very destructive involving shrapnel and burns. Rubin says the underlying tissue is often very scared and the work is done in “tight spots.” That leads to the need for new techniques and interments. About 20 patients will be treated in Pittsburgh under this grant. Doctors at military hospitals will then be taught the techniques and eventually offer the reconstructive work to more veterans. The first surgeries will be performed in January. The team of doctors doing the work includes a psychiatrist to help the patients with the transition and measure the impact the injuries and the new surgeries have on returning vets.