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Dr. Barry Eppley

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Archive for the ‘technical strategies’ Category

Technical Strategies – Webbed Neck Correction with Trapezius Myotomies

Sunday, October 15th, 2017


The webbed neck occurs is a wide variety of medical conditions and has variable presentations. While most commonly associated with Turner’s, Noonan and Klippel-Feil syndromes where the webbed necks are severe, they also occur in lesser presentations that may have no specific syndrome associated with them. While non-syndromic neck webbing is less severe, it may be more aesthetically disturbing given that it is a solitary physical deformity.

The traditional methods of webbed neck correction use incisions and tissue rearrangements directly along the neck webs which are aesthetically unacceptable. While effective the visible scarring is not a worthy tradeoff in many cases particularly in the less severe neck webs. For this reason I use a posterior approach that employs a diamond-shaped skin excision. The upper half is in the hairline and the lower half is in the non-hair bearing neck skin. The middle angles of the equilateral parallelogram are placed along the horizontal axis of the maximum amount of inward skin pull needed.

The posterior neck skin is fully excised down to the fascia. It can be surprising how thick the skin and fat is on the back of the neck even in a thin person. Skin flaps are raised out to the lateral neck web lines on each side along the trapezius fascia. The fascia is opened along a linear line that goes out to the neck webs. With the trapezius muscle exposed its fibers are partially released from its lateral border for several centimeters inward. Midline fascial plication is then done on each side pulling in the sides of the muscle.

To complete the webbed neck correction, the skin is closed by changing the diamond-shaped excision into a vertical midline closure. The muscle and fascia work brings in the deeper structures while the skin closure provides the more superficial neck narrowing effect. Skin excision and closure alone will not create a sustained webbed neck corection.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Buccal Fat Grafting of the Labiomental Fold

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017


The labiomental fold is a small and often overlooked facial feature. Lying between the lower lip and chin, it is a crease or fold of varying depths amongst different people. Why a labiomental fold even exists at all is a function of many factors including chin projection, the attachment of the mentalis muscle to the bone, the size of the soft tissue chin pad, the depth of the intraoral vestibule and the size and projection of the lower lip.

While often thought irrelevant, it becomes a more important aesthetic issue in chin surgery particularly that of augmentation. Since the labiomental fold is a fixed anatomic structure, its appearance will be affected by increasing chin projection almost regardless of the method to do so. As the inferior chin comes out further, the superior labiomental fold by contrast will look deeper. There is nothing a chin implant or a sliding genioplasty can do, on their own, to make the labiodental fold less deep.

Softening a deep labiomental fold requires a direct approach whether it is an injection technique or an implant. Injecting filler or fat is often not rewarding as the tightness of the fold makes it hard to get a good push outward.

An alternative strategy is to perform a full release of the dermal attachments of the fold above the mentalis muscle through an intraoral approach and then place a soft tissue graft. A fat graft is a good choice for the filler material and can come from a variety of sources including a dermal-fat graft and a solid fat graft like that from the buccal fat pads. (as shown here)

Release of the deep labiomental fold well above the bone level (north of the mentalis muscle and not south of it) is the key for successful fat grafting in efforts to soften it.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Multi-Point Temporal Artery Ligation

Thursday, August 17th, 2017


The development of visible temporal arteries in the forehead is not rare. Occurring almost exclusively in men, the frontal or anterior branch of the superficial temporal artery becomes dilated and its course up into the forehead becomes prominent. Often occurring after exercise, heat exposure or alcohol intake, the muscular walls if the artery dilate makes its course very visible. In some patients the size of the artery may decrease but in other patients it may persist for days. While this is largely as aesthetic issue, some patients complain of associated headaches and even visual blurring.

Temporal artery ligation is the surgical treatment for such aesthetic forehead vessel dilatations. It should be not confused, however, with the ligation technique done for temporal arteritis or temporal artery biopsy. While that procedure does ligate (and remove a section) of the vessel, its intent is not to stop the flow through the artery. It is to remove a section of the vessel for pathologic analysis. Any blood flow reduction is an inadvertent side effect.

But aesthetic temporal artery ligation is done with the intent of ceasing flow through the prominent section of the artery. If flood is diminished or eliminated it will no longer be visible. While it may seem like ligating the vessel before it ever enters the non-hair bearing temporal and forehead areas should work, it often by itself does not. This only treats one part of the problem, inflow or anterograde flow. It does not account for back flow or retrograde flow which comes from the cross-connections across the scalp.

The real key to the procedure is to carefully trace the pattern of the vessel forward and look for branching points. At these identified branching points ligations must be done to cut off back flow once forward flow is eliminated. This can be difficult to always completely identify as the artery has a very tortuous pattern in the forehead. Sometimes they are visible but many times it requires careful palpation to find them.

The number of temporal artery ligations points will vary for each patient but can range from two to seven. The average number is three per side. Men who shave the head or have closely cropped hair often undergo more ligation points due to greater vessel exposure along its length. In the forehead area it is also important to place the small incisions in natural skin wrinkle lines which can be found by having the patient raise their eyebrows.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Fishtail Earlobe Reshaping in Otoplasty

Saturday, August 12th, 2017


Otoplasty or ear pinning is the most common aesthetic surgery performed on the ear and its cartilages. (technically earlobe repair would be the most common aesthetic ear surgery… but it contains no cartilage)  In repositioning the shape of the protruding ear back towards the side of the head a variety of techniques are used to reshape the underlying supporting ear cartilages. Some of these are suture plications while others involve modification or removal of sections of ill-formed cartilage.

But in ear reshaping surgery consideration must be given to the only non-cartilaginous structure of the ear…the earlobe. This small area of the ear is frequently overlooked in otoplasty and can mar the aesthetic result of an otherwise pleasing reshaped ear. In many cases if the cartilage of the ear its pulled back but the earlobe remains too far forward, the ear will still standout but to a lesser degree. A protruding earlobe disturbs an otherwise smooth helical rim line from the top of the ear downward. Such otoplasty patients with earlobes that need to be simultaneously addressed can be identified beforehand.

As part of an otoplasty I frequently reposition the earlobe as well. I use excision of a segment of skin on the back side of the earlobe in a fishtail pattern. This skin section is removed with care taken to not cut through to the other side. In closing this open area on the back of the earlobe,  the outerearlobe is pulled back but avoids becoming pinched or developing a dogear skin redundancy at its bottom edge. It is the fishtail pattern that prevents the bottom of the earlobe from becoming too pinched. This is effective whether the patient has attached or detached earlobes from the side of the face.

A pleasing otoplasty result must frequently involve earlobe reshaping as well. Establishing a smooth contour from the top of the ear down to the bottom of the earlobe prevents any part of the ear from standing out..which in otoplasty surgery is the main goal. The ears needs to blend into the side of the head in a non-prominent fashion. While the ear has a complexity of hills and valleys and is artistically shaped, it still is not aesthetically pleasing to have it be more dominant than other facial features.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Transcoronal Posterior Zygomatic Arch Osteotomy

Sunday, August 6th, 2017


Cheekbone reduction by osteotomies is the only surgical method for narrowing a wide face. While most commonly performed on Asian patients all around the world, I have done an equal number on other ethnicities as well. By performing a bone cut through the main body of the cheek (zygoma) and at the back end of the zygomatic arch, the widest part of the cheeks can be moved inward. Its effect comes from taking the most convex part of the zygomatic arch and changing its widest point to a lower inward position. Once the bone is moved inward it is usually stabilized in its new position by some form of metal fixation.

The front cheekbone reduction osteotomy is done from an intraoral incision and thus is scar free. Conversely the posterior zygomatic arch osteotomy is usually done from an external skin incision at the back side of the sideburn (male) or preauricular tuft of hair. (female) While this small incision always heals well in my experience, there are alternatives points of access to it.

One approach to the posterior zygomatic arch osteotomy is through the same intraoral incision as the anterior osteotomy. Sliding an osteotome along the underside of the arch it can be fractured in a blinded fashion. Plate stabilization is not possible. This is not a technique that I have done but I know other surgeons that do it.

Another approach to the osteotomy its from above, coming underneath the deep temporalis fascia. This could be done if one is concurrently using a coronal scalp incision for other procedures as well. Thin elevators are placed on both the outside and inside of the posterior zygomatic arch just in front of its temporal attachment. An osteotomy is used to make a complete osteotomy through the thin arch bone. It can then be mobilized and pushed inward. Like the intraoral approach plate fixation is not possible.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Submental Tracheal Reduction

Saturday, August 5th, 2017


The reduction of a prominent Adam’s Apple is known as a tracheal shave. Done directly over the tracheal prominence through a small skin incision the V-shaped thyroid cartilage is reduced, as the name indicates, by shaving it down with a scalpel blade. Since the prominence is composed of cartilage it can be reduced in layers with the sharp edge of a blade. As patients age the thyroid cartilage becomes stiffer and more calcified and may have to be burred down for an effective reduction.

While the skin incision for a tracheal shave is small and often heals exceedingly well, the risk of a visible scar always exists. While the procedure will always require a skin incision, an alternative location would be higher in the submental region under the chin. This distant incision location requires the creation of a subcutaneous tunnel down the midline from the chin to the thyroid prominence. Using a fiberoptic retractor the prominent cartilage can be seen and dissected free of overlying tissues.

Because the thyroid cartilage is a mobile structure, trying to shave it down with a scalpel blade from a remote incision is difficult. For this reason I prefer to use a handpiece and drill and burr the cartilage prominence down. This works just as well on soft cartilage as it does on harder cartilage. A small round or tapered carbide burr removes cartilage structure rapidly. Within the tight space of this subcutaneous tunnel it is important to be careful with a rapidly rotating burr to not inadvertently engage the surrounding soft tissues.

Because of the more limited visibility from this remote incision, a submental reduction should not be used when larger tracheal shaves are needed. Better control of the shape of thyroid prominence can be obtained by a direct incisional approach.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – The Vertical Opening Wedge Genioplasty

Friday, August 4th, 2017


Chin asymmetry is easily seen as the most projecting part of the lower face is shifted off of the facial midline. The central chin point is shifted to one side or the other and can occur for variety of reasons. The most common reason is developmental or traumatic where the sides of the jaw have different lengths, most commonly because there is a shorter side due to developmental deformities or from traumatic injuries/fractures.

In cases of chin asymmetry due to shortening of one side, realignment of the chin can be done by a unilateral lengthening of the shorter side. This is called an opening wedge genioplasty which is performed through an intraoral approach. Just like a traditional sliding genioplasty a horizontal bone cut is done well below the mental foramens and at a low anteroposterior angle as possible. Once the bone is down fractured (mobilized) the the longer or normal side is fixed with a single small two-hole plate and screws with bone to bone contact. This becomes the hinge point at which the opposite shorter side is opened.

The opening wedge distance on the shorter chin side that it is vertically lengthened is determined by the distance the central chin point is off the facial midline. In theory this is a 1:1 ratio, although like an obtuse or scalene triangle, the opening wedge usually has to be slightly greater than the amount of midline asymmetry.

The opening wedge is then stabilized with a much longer plate than was used on the opposite hinge point. Cadaveric corticocancellous bone pieces are used to fill in the empty intrabony wedge space to ensure healing. It is important to fill out the wedge defect all the way out to the inferior border to avoid a step-off deformity.

The vertical opening wedge bony genioplasty is a useful technique for those chin asymmetries which are caused by a shorter sided jaw segment.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Mouth Widening in Scar Contractures

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017


The width of the mouth and the flexibility of the lips are important for food intake and oral hygiene. They not only permit the lower jaw to open fully but also allow mobility of the adjacent facial soft tissues with expression. Having a ‘loose’ oral sphincter is taken for granted until one doesn’t have that normal stretch of the lips.

Tight or contracted mouth corners occur for a variety of reasons but the most common is that of trauma. Burns, avulsive tissue loss and surgery can create scarring around the lips which can cause banding or tightness across the once flexible mouth corners. No matter how soft the rest of the lips are, loss of stretch at the corners where the upper and lower lips meet will limit oral opening and access.

Opening up or releasing the mouth corners is a surgical procedure known as a commissuroplasty. But its name does not convey exactly how it is done. There are a variety of mouth releasing procedures but most are based on scar contracture release just as is done anywhere on the body. The most well known of these would be the z-plasty,  the transposition of two triangular skin flaps. The incisions are designed to create a Z shape with the central line of it being placed with the part of the scar that needs lengthening.

In the contracted mouth corner, however, the line of tightness is not straight. It occurs at angled intersection of the junction of the upper and lower lip lines. This requites a modification of the classic z-plasty to include a backcut at the center of the ‘central’ limb along the line that the mouth corner need to be extended out laterally.

With the cutting of these flaps, the lower vermilion-mucosal flap is transposed out into the most lateral extent of the newly created corner position. The superior skin flap is then rotated along the vermilion-cutaneous line of the lower lip. Some trimming of this skin flap is usually needed. This creates an increased mouth corner position of 1 cm or more ion each side.

This type of mouth widening procedure is used in scar contracture releases. It its not the technique that would be used in cosmetic mouth widening or commissure lengthening.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Rib Graft Shaping in Rhinoplasty

Saturday, July 15th, 2017


Rib grafts are the material of choice for many larger augmentative rhinoplasties and complex nasal revisions. They offer a virtually unlimited amount of cartilage graft material that can be used anywhere on the nose from the bridge down to the tip and columella. Because cartilage is softer than bone and relatively easy to carve, it is a versatile graft material that can be shaped for a wide variety of nasal reconstructive needs.

Besides the need for a donor site, the other downside to a rib graft is that it is rarely completely straight. Much of the shape of the ribs is largely curved as it bends around the side of the chest to join into the sternum. When harvesting cartilage the surgeon tries to take the straightest piece possible but, more times than not, a sizable rib graft harvest is likely to have a bit of a curve to it. Thus some form of graft manipulation/reshaping is needed.

The most common form of rib graft reshaping is to carve it like one would a bar of soap. A scalpel is use to carve it into the desired graft shape. In doing so it is well recognized to be aware of the bend of the rib and the attachments of the perichondrium. Since the perichondrium exerts a pulling force on the surface of the rib, it is important to keep the perichondrium attached on the convex side away from the curve and to remove the perichondrium and cartilage on the concave side of the curve.

Another useful or additive technique is to score the cartilage on the opposite side of the curve even though the perichondrium is left intact. Then multjple through and through sutures are placed to bend it straight or to ensure that it stays straight. This can work well in slight bends and if one is concerned about postoperative warping. Usually two to four transverse scores are needed for a long dorsal augmentation.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Technical Strategies – Shortening Vestibuloplasty

Saturday, July 1st, 2017


Soft tissue malposition of the anterior lower face is manifest in several presentations. Chin ptosis or sagging refers to the hanging of the soft tissue chin pad off the end of the bone. It most commonly occurs from some type of chin surgery that has stretched out the soft tissue attachments. Chin implant removal is a classic example of its cause although not the only one. It can also occur from a sliding genioplasty setback, multiple intraoral chin surgeries and aging associated with alveolar bone loss.

Chin ptosis may also be associated with lower lip incompetence. As the chin pad tissue slides off of the bone it may pull down on the lower lip, creating lack of lip closure at rest and lower teeth show. This creates a dual negative perioral effect.

The most well known treatment for chin ptosis and/or lower lip incompetence is mentalis muscle resuspension. This well chronicled procedure reattaches the bony origin of the muscle higher up on the bone often at a position between the incisor tooth roots. The muscle drags up with it the overlying soft tissues of the chin pad correcting chin pad ptosis and pushing up the lower lip. While these effects of muscle manipulation often look good during surgery, they unfortunately are often not maintained as well as one would like particularly that of the lower lip.

As a result other adjunctive procedures are commonly done with mentalis muscle resuspension to help improve its long-term success rate. One of these procedures is a vestibuloplasty, specifically a shortening vestibuloplasty. The anterior mandibular vestibule is the lined space between the teeth and the lower lip. The depth of the vestibule is usually a reflection of the superior position of the mentalis muscle on the bone. With a deep vestibule the superior muscle attachment is located lower and often so is that of the lower lip.

In a shortening vestibuloplasty the mucosal lining of the depth of the vestibule is removed and a layered closure is done. This raises the height of the vestibule (shortens its depth) and helps provides support to the elevated lip.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Barry EppleyDr. Barry Eppley

Dr. Barry Eppley is an extensively trained plastic and cosmetic surgeon with more than 20 years of surgical experience. He is both a licensed physician and dentist as well as double board-certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This training allows him to perform the most complex surgical procedures from cosmetic changes to the face and body to craniofacial surgery. Dr. Eppley has made extensive contributions to plastic surgery starting with the development of several advanced surgical techniques. He is a revered author, lecturer and educator in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

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