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Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019 Jan 14;7(1):e2085. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002085. eCollection 2019 Jan.

Implications of Aging in Plastic Surgery.

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Division of Plastic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass.
Division of Endocrinology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass.


Given the rapidly aging population, investigating the effect of age on plastic surgery outcomes is imperative. Despite this, the topic has received relatively little attention. Furthermore, there appears to be little integration between the basic scientists investigating the mechanisms of aging and the plastic surgeons providing the majority of "antiaging" therapies. This review first provides a description of the effects and mechanisms of aging in 5 types of tissue: skin, adipose tissue, muscles, bones and tendons, and nervous tissue followed by an overview of the basic mechanisms underlying aging, presenting the currently proposed cellular and molecular theories. Finally, the impact of aging, as well as frailty, on plastic surgery outcomes is explored by focusing on 5 different topics: general wound healing and repair of cutaneous tissue, reconstruction of soft tissue, healing of bones and tendons, healing of peripheral nerves, and microsurgical reconstruction. We find mixed reports on the effect of aging or frailty on outcomes in plastic surgery, which we hypothesize to be due to exclusion of aged and frail patients from surgery as well as due to outcomes that reported no postsurgical issues with aged patients. As plastic surgeons continue to interact more with the growing elderly population, a better appreciation of the underlying mechanisms and outcomes related to aging and a clear distinction between chronological age and frailty can promote better selection of patients, offering appropriate patients surgery to improve an aged appearance, and declining interventions in inappropriate patients.

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