Plastic Surgery has long played an important role at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Vilray Blair, the first chief of the Division, was one of the founders of the specialty in the United States. His illustrious successors at the medical school and hospital have developed an international center for plastic surgery treatment and education.

Throughout the Division’s history — dating back to the early 20th Century — Washington University plastic surgeons have developed many innovations. The “delay” phenomenon, the first reproducible cleft lip repair, full-thickness skin grafts, dermatomes, hypospadias repair, surgical burn management, advancements in oncologic head and neck reconstruction, and reconstruction of irradiated tissues, just to name a few, all stemmed from plastic surgeons at Washington University. Giants like Vilray Blair, James Barrett Brown, Louis “Bill” Byars, and Frank McDowell set a high standard for excellence, and that tradition continues today.

The current division chief, Susan E. Mackinnon, MD, performed the world’s first donor nerve transplant. Her dedication to peripheral nerve reconstruction and evaluation of nerve regeneration have revolutionized patient management. She continues to develop new techniques of nerve transfers, which provide faster recovery of nerve function. Based on these principles, nerve surgeons within the division have performed an innovative procedure to restore hand function in patients with C6, C7 spinal cord injuries. For patients with leg injuries, Washington University plastic surgeons have developed novel nerve transfers to restore a more normal gait.

At West County Plastic Surgeons, division members have integrated 3D imaging into their cosmetic practice to improve patient satisfaction and outcomes. The division continues to be a high-volume breast reconstruction center in partnership with oncologic surgeons at the Siteman Cancer Center.

Repairs of fractures and reconstruction of nerve, tendon and ligament injuries of the hand are among many procedures performed by hand surgery specialists in the division.

The division also features a Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Deformities Institute at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Since 1978, the Institute has treated more than 11,200 total patients. These include 3,681 patients with cleft lip and/or palate, 4,985 patients with deformational plagiocephaly and 2,540 patients with major craniofacial anomalies. Our craniofacial surgeons are one of only a few centers across the nation to perform endoscopically assisted treatment for children with synostosis.

Other areas of excellence are cancer and trauma reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery, microsurgery, facial nerve reconstruction, brachial plexus reconstruction, pediatric plastic surgery and management of skin care. Washington University plastic and reconstructive surgeons serve patients in the St. Louis region, the Midwest, and throughout the world.

As an academic institution, the division provides not only leading treatment but also an academically oriented, integrated residency-training program in plastic and reconstructive surgery and fellowship opportunities for advanced training. The program is continuously evaluated and updated to provide the most advanced training that prepares residents and fellows to be leaders in their respective specialties.

Washington University plastic surgeons are also leaders in research with current studies in traumatic nerve injury; oncologic implications of fat grafting; outcomes of various types of breast reconstructions; limb transplant immunology; surgical outcomes in hand surgery; craniofacial reconstruction and developmental changes in the face; and peripheral nerve regeneration. Surgeons within the division are also focused on surgical education and integrating technology with education.

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