Plastic surgeons play pivotal role in war injury research

April 17, 2008

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) will play a pivotal role over the next five years developing groundbreaking therapies to better treat U.S. soldiers critically injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded $85 million in grant funding to the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), a multi-institutional network of plastic surgeons and other physicians who specialize in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. An announcement made today at the Pentagon stated the grant will be used for pioneering medical research and innovations to repair battlefield injuries.

"Reconstructive plastic surgery is critical in treating wounded soldiers and the types of injuries sustained on the battlefield," said Richard D'Amico, MD, ASPS president. "Blast injuries from roadside bombs and high velocity guns are common and affect almost every part of the body. Plastic surgeons are uniquely qualified to perform reconstructive surgery on all areas of the body."

The federally funded research will involve investigating surgical innovations to improve wound healing and tissue repair through adult stem cell and other technologies that will allow new bone, skin, nerves, tendons, muscles, and blood vessels to form. Much of this research is related to the specialty of plastic surgery. The five major areas of research include limb salvage, reconstruction, regeneration, and transplantation; craniofacial reconstruction; burn repair; scar reduction; and treatment for compartment syndrome.

"This funding will serve as a vital step toward improving treatments for devastating injuries to the lower and upper extremities as well as the face," said ASPS Member Surgeon and AFIRM physician Joseph Rosen, MD. "We are proud to serve the troops and hope this research will help them to better heal both physically and emotionally, provide a faster return to productive life, and improve their quality of life after injury. The therapies developed will also serve trauma and burn patients in the general public."

The AFIRM is managed and funding is provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, with additional funding from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Administration. The $85 million in grant money will be awarded over a period of five years beginning in spring/summer of 2008.

Approximately 25 percent of the AFIRM's physician researchers are board-certified plastic surgeons--many of whom are ASPS Member Surgeons. Other specialties participating in the AFIRM include, but are not limited to, general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, and dermatology.

"War has inspired great advances in plastic surgery to correct the awful injuries that are inflicted on its participants," said Dr. D'Amico. "In fact, it was the 'War to End All Wars,' World War I, that challenged plastic surgeons to achieve groundbreaking advances in wound repair and reconstruction. With this latest conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, plastic surgery, once again, is integral to saving and restoring soldiers' lives."
-end-
According to the DoD, nearly 29,800 soldiers had been wounded in action in the Iraq war as of April 15, 2008 and 1,927 wounded in Afghanistan operations as of April 12, 2008.

Visit www.plasticsurgery.org for referrals to ASPS Member Surgeons and to learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 6,700 physician members, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 90 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.Editor's Note: ASPS Member Surgeons participating in the AFIRM research are available for media interviews.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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