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Hand Fat Grafting May Reduce Symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Ava Lawson | May 12, 2014 | Posted in Body

Juvederm NYCNew research shows additional benefits of fat grafting plastic surgery, which may help those who suffer symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon. A condition that is more common in women than men, Raynaud’s limits blood flow to the fingertips, hands and toes in response to cold temperatures or stress, leaving some patients with stinging, prickly pain in their extremities. The poor circulation is caused by spasming blood vessels, and attacks can last from a few minutes to several hours.

Dr. Lawrence S. Zachary and fellow colleagues at the University of Chicago Medical Center report positive results with fat graft injections in patients with the condition. Their findings were included in the May edition of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’s official medical journal.

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Fat grafting reduced painful symptoms linked to Raynaud’s

“We believe that there is a continued role for fat grafting in advanced, refractory Raynaud’s phenomenon,” concluded Dr. Zachary, “and are working towards further characterizing and assessing this treatment option.”

Their study included 13 patients who were currently suffering from symptoms of Raynaud’s. One of the catalysts for the fat grafting research was prior success observed in patients whose hands were injected for other medical reasons, including reconstruction for severe burns and dermatitis.

In their study, the surgeons decided to use autologous fat, meaning adipose cells that derive from a patient’s own body.  Each of the 13 patients had excess fat harvested from their abdominal area. A mere one fluid ounce of the fat was injected into various spots in their fingers and hands.

One quarter of the participants reported a significant improvement in their Raynaud symptoms after fat grafting. Among the improvements were fewer cold attacks, enhanced hand function and decreased skin ulcers. Perhaps the most significant benefit was the reduction in pain, with the average pain score dropping from 6.86 to 2.38 (10 point scale).

More research needed on fat graft treatment for Raynaud’s

Interestingly, the researchers found that the clinical benefits enjoyed by the fat grafting participants could not be attributed to an increase in blood flow. By using a cutting-edge technique known as laser speckle imaging, blood flow was measured both before and after the procedure in 11 hands. Blood flow appeared to remain stable in most, with 6 people showing a decrease after the fat injections.

Participants in the research had sought other treatments to relieve their Raynaud’s symptoms, including nerve surgery on the hands as well as Botox injections. For some who suffer from the condition, symptoms can progress, causing skin ulcers, deformities of the toes and fingers, and in very rare cases, gangrene. Eleven of the study participants also had autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma – a known risk factor for Raynaud’s phenomenon. The rest had been diagnosed with primary Raynaud’s, which is reserved for cases that have no underlying medical causes that can spark regular blood vessel spasms.

While the study’s findings may offer hope for those who currently suffer from Raynaud’s, researchers note the importance of further clinical trials to help determine how and why fat grafting helps diminish symptoms when it seems to have little effect on vascular spasms and blood flow.

For more information on fat grafting or plastic surgery innovations, please contact the offices of Dr. Thomas Loeb to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

A leading New York plastic surgeon, Dr. Loeb is pioneer in a variety of body contouring procedures used to enhance the lives of his patients. To arrange your appointment, please complete the online form to the right of your screen or call 347-329-4271.

+ Resources
- Resources
  1. ASPS, Fat Grafting Technique Helps Patients with Raynaud’s Phenomenon
  2. Mayo Clinic, Raynaud’s Disease
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