Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by having a physician inject 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. Physicians haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause because it was difficult to see how the injected fluid, or filler, behaves in facial tissue. New imaging technology from UW engineers now allows scientists to analyze what happens in the smallest blood vessels during an injection. This technique could 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. 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.—Michelle Ma
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