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Reversing Damage: Innovative Approaches in Burn Surgery and Breast Reconstruction

To the average person—even to some medical students—the term plastic surgery means only cosmetic procedures. But for the patients who come to Johns Hopkins seeking help after devastating accidents and injuries, beauty is often the least of their concerns: They want to feel and look like themselves again. They want their lives back.

Whether it’s a breast cancer patient who’s undergone a mastectomy, a burn patient who’s survived a tragic fire, an accident victim with traumatic facial fractures or scarring, or a child with a birth defect, reconstructive surgery is often their only hope for recovering form and function. In the Johns Hopkins Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, we not only perform the most advanced procedures and devise new ones, we join with specialists throughout the institution—from pediatricians and dermatologists to neurosurgeons and orthopedists—to provide each patient with the best opportunity for a successful outcome.

In treating breast cancer patients, evidence shows that reconstructive surgery is most effective and successful when it’s incorporated into patient care from the beginning. Many of our surgeons have contributed to complex microvascular techniques, such as the DIEP flap and SGAP flap, which do not require the patient to sacrifice abdominal or back muscles. These and other sophisticated reconstructive operations also allow our surgeons to preserve as much of the natural look and feel of a woman’s breasts as possible.

“Reconstruction is really essential to treatment,” says breast surgeon Michele Manahan. “None of our oncologists would consider mastectomy without counseling patients about their reconstruction options. It’s an integral part of treatment here, and more than 80 percent of our patients—well above the national average—undergo breast reconstructive surgery.”

Unique in plastic surgery programs, our reconstructive surgeons are also key members of the multidisciplinary Johns Hopkins Burn Center—the regional burn center for a five-state area that has earned a national and international reputation for nearly 20 years. Performing 500 operations every year, our surgeons are experts in skin grafting and tissue transfers as well as other procedures that promote wound healing, correct dysfunction and deformities related to burn injury, and improve a burn survivor’s physical appearance. In fact, being able to return patients to their lives and communities is a goal that often hinges on reconstructive outcomes.

Michele Manahan Department Director of Patient Safety, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Michele Manahan
Department Director of Patient Safety, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

On the Landing Edge of Quality and Safety

Working with Johns Hopkins Medicine’s recently established Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, our surgeons are bringing science to bear in developing new protocols to prevent treatment complications and promote ever-improving outcomes.

By rigorously applying scientific principles to the study of safety for the benefit of all patients, we are focused on eliminating preventable harm, ensuring clinical excellence and creating a collaborative culture that values patient safety above all.

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