Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Facelift complications eased with help of new 3-D imaging technique

Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by injecting a gel-like material into their facial tissue. These cosmetic procedures are sometimes called “liquid facelifts” and are said to be minimally invasive.

It’s rare, but sometimes things go wrong. In a matter of minutes, patients’ skin can turn red or blotchy white and the injected area becomes painful. Vital blood supply to the face is restricted and if untreated, parts of the tissue will die. That scenario is irreversible and can leave deep scars.

Siavash Yousefi, U of Washington

This image shows a mouse ear after a successful cosmetic filler injection. The filler, in green, rests in the tissue without blocking the blood vessels and veins.

Physicians haven’t been able to pinpoint why this happens because until now it was difficult to see how the injected fluid, or filler, behaves in facial tissue.

New imaging technology from University of Washington engineers allows scientists to analyze what happens within the smallest blood vessels during an injection. This finding could be used to prevent accidents during procedures and help clinicians reverse the ill effects if an injection doesn’t go as planned.

“Filler-induced tissue death can be a really devastating complication for the patient and provider,” said Shu-Hong (Holly) Chang, a UW assistant professor of ophthalmology specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery. “This noninvasive imaging technique provides far better detail than I’ve ever seen before and helped us figure out why this is happening.”

Using this technology, Chang and her team saw that complications arose when filler was inadvertently injected into the bloodstream rather than in the intended soft tissues of the face. The gel builds up in a vessel, blocking blood movement and oxygen exchange. The team tested this in the ears of mice, which offer a model of what can happen in the blood vessels of a human face, Chang said.

She presented the results in November at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery showing that filler injections into blood vessels are most likely the cause of tissue death and other complications associated with the cosmetic procedure.

Ruikang Wang, a UW professor of bioengineering, and his lab pioneered this fine-resolution imaging, called optical microangiography. It can turn out 3-D images of the body’s vascular network by shining a light onto the tissue without touching it or adding any fluorescent dyes.

“We can visualize how blood responds to the cosmetic filler gel, even looking at the responses of each individual vessel. No other technique can provide this level of scrutiny,” Wang said.

The optical imaging technique operates on the same concept as ultrasound, which leverages changes in sound to detect structures. This technique instead uses light to repeatedly scan tissue cross-sections, delineating unmoving pieces (surrounding tissues) from moving segments (blood cells in vessels). Researchers compare image frames and piece together the complex visual web.

This technology can see blood vessels as small as 5 microns in diameter. Capillaries, the smallest vessels in our bodies, are about 7 microns in diameter and a red blood cell is usually 3 to 5 microns wide.

“Our niche is imaging the microvascular system,” said team member Siavash Yousefi, a UW graduate student in bioengineering. Other applications of the technology include analyzing how wounds heal, tracking what happens during strokes and traumatic brain injuries, and imaging human eyes to study diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Cosmetic filler procedures have surged worldwide in recent years, particularly in Europe and Asia. In 2012 in the U.S. about 2 million procedures were performed. Up to 800 patients reportedly suffered serious complications, including potentially permanent disfigurement.

During the procedure, a practitioner injects the gel-like solution, often a natural substance called hyaluronic acid, multiple times into a person’s face. Restriction of blood to the tissues, called ischemia, often doesn’t show up until later, when the patient develops pain and sees changes on the surface of the skin, meaning the tissue is dying.

Some practitioners suggest using massage and warm compresses to treat the area, while others tell patients to take aspirin, but the field doesn’t have a standard course of action for treating these complications, Chang said. She has been called in for several emergencies to treat other practitioners’ patients who show signs of a failed procedure. This can lead to tissue death and even blindness if the affected area is near the eyes.

With this new understanding, practitioners can try to reverse the effect of vascular blockage by injecting an enzyme that dissolves hyaluronic acid fillers. The research team is now testing all types of available cosmetic fillers to see if their results hold on each brand and evaluating new treatments for reversing procedure complications.

“Our lab is trying to develop novel and clinically useful biomedical imaging techniques for early diagnosis, treatment and management of human diseases. Using this technology to better understand facelift complications is a perfect example that fulfills this mission,” Wang said.

The research was funded in part by the organization Research to Prevent Blindness and a Latham Vision Research Innovation Award.

For more information, contact Yousefi at or 541-602-9592; Chang at or 206-897-4611; and Wang at or 206-616-5025.

Michelle Ma | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens helps transform the main wastewater treatment plant in Vienna into a green power plant

30.11.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New Analysis Technique for Chiral Activity in Molecules

30.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

More VideoLinks >>>