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3-D Optical Imaging Can Save Face, Literally

January 31, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Interventional Radiology
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A new 3-D optical imaging technique could, according to its developers at the University of Washington, prevent so-called liquid facelifts from going horribly wrong.

The technique’s ability to provide high-resolution images of even the tiniest blood vessels could also give it many other medical uses.

A liquid facelift involves the injection of a gel into facial tissue. The injection can smooth wrinkles and plump up lips—but, in rare instances, it can cut off blood supply to areas of skin, causing tissue to die and leaving deep scars.

The new imaging technique, called optical microangiography, uncovered the cause of this disfiguring complication: misdirected injections that allow the gel to invade and clog blood vessels.

Optical microangiography repeatedly scans tissue cross sections with light to detect motion. It delineates blood vessels (which it locates because of the blood cells moving through them) from surrounding tissue. It is noninvasive and does not use dyes. According to one of its developers, it’s incredibly precise:

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.

The speaker is Shu-Hong Chang, MD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington. She is an opthalmic pathologist and an orbital and oculofacial plastic surgeon. She was quoted in a university news release.

Optical microangiography can see blood vessels as small as 5 microns in diameter, barely wider than a  red blood cell.

“Our niche is imaging the microvascular system,” said Siavash Yousefi, a Washington PhD student who is part of the team developing the technique. The university says optical microangiography could analyze how wounds heal, show what happens during strokes and traumatic brain injuries, and study such eye diseases as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

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

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Imaging is at the center of most of the 16 projects that were awarded $300,000 grants by the National Football League and GE to study mild traumatic brain injury. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 42.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Radiology Review: COMPREHENSIVE IMAGING

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