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Say 'Aaah' | Booster Shots

Scary New Frontiers in Plastic Surgery

May 17, 1999|ROSIE MESTEL

So you finally call the doc about getting that nose job, and darn it: He's out of town. Of course he is. He's in Dallas with fellowmembers of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, listening to talks like "Restoring the Youthful Eyelid" at their annual meeting.

We at Health are, of course, perfectly happy with the way we look, except for some eye creases, a developing sag line from the nose, and a stubborn 5 pounds that just won't . . . but we digress. Titles of three talks at this meeting really intrigued us.

The first, "Automated Devices in Hair Restoration," conjures up images, for us, of sewing machines clacking across people's heads. Las Vegas plastic surgeon Dr. Barry Markman's invention cuts slits in scalps and inserts hairs, up to 16 at a time. Pair it with another invention, by Dr. Tony Mangubat of Seattle--a machine that cuts hairs to be transplanted--and it's as if we're witnessing a solemn moment in history: an industrial revolution for the hair transplant trade.

"A Classification of Crow's Feet Patterns in Caucasian Women" piqued our interest, too. Dr. Michael Kane of Manhattan studied 50 women to see which regions of their faces wrinkle when they smile. Some women, he found, crinkle all around their eyes, while for others crinkling is limited to smaller areas. Crinkle knowledge, he says, is key to injecting a drug that paralyzes muscle--and thus helps the skin look unwrinkly--only where it's needed.

The third paper? "Breast Enlargement With a Bra-Like External Soft-Tissue Expansion Device." We have no idea what this is about, but our imagination is running wild.

Now Hear This: Your Heartbeat

Now we'd like to tell you some interesting facts about the stethoscope. (Pay attention! Stop wondering about that soft-tissue expansion device!) The stethoscope, we bet you didn't know, was invented by the French physician Rene Laennec in 1819. Back then, it was no more than a hollow wooden tube that was held against chests to amplify thumps and gurgles. Want to see Laennec in action? There's a nifty painting of him and his stethoscope at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. ("Stethos," by the way, is Greek for "chest.")

You'd think the invention would have been greeted with unbridled enthusiasm. But some docs felt the newfangled contraption would put up cold, clinical walls between physician and patient. Others fretted that the instrument's precision would leave no room for doubt, and thus hope.

Today, it seems that doctors aren't as adept at using a stethoscope as they once were. A 1997 study found that residents, interns and med students identified only one-fifth of abnormal heart sounds using the stethoscope.

And finally, after nearly 200 years, the stethoscope is going high-tech. An electronic version can magnify sounds 14 times over the standard model. And scientists are trying to build one that suppresses background noise, so doctors can use it in places like planes.

Chiropractic of the Equine Kind

Now that you can wow friends and family with all that stethoscope trivia, why not wow them too with the fact that horses are getting their backs manipulated by chiropractors?

We recently spoke to Dr. Kevin Haussler of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, who studied back pain in horses for his doctorate (one subtle clue that a horse is in pain, he says, is when it kicks you when you touch it). Though he specializes in horses, he's also adjusted dogs, cats, a bull and a llama. (He's heard of adjustments in elephants, tigers, even a parakeet.)

Anyway, manipulating muscles and joints in a great big horse is no easy matter, but Haussler has shown it can be done in experiments in which he works horses' backs while they're trotting on treadmills. He then demonstrates--using high-tech electronic sensors--that the position of the vertebrae does shift. Does it help with horse pain? Clinical studies haven't been done yet, but perhaps we shouldn't be neighhh-sayers. (Sorry about that.)

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