Dr Patrick Byrne is likely to perform facial surgery in Bermuda in the near future. *Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins
Dr Patrick Byrne is likely to perform facial surgery in Bermuda in the near future. *Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins

Bermuda could benefit from the medical expertise and treatment of one of the world’s leading facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons.

Dr Patrick Byrne, who specialises in facial, head and neck surgery, as well as rhinoplasty (nose) and dermatology (skin), is currently in consultation with physicians to discuss the possibility of him coming to Bermuda on occasion to perform certain operations.

Patients needing non-cosmetic facial plastic and reconstructive surgery could soon be treated here instead of having to make  costly, time-consuming trips overseas.

Dr Byrne, who is one of the directors for Hopkins International, was brought to Bermuda by the Bermuda Hospitals Board last month to share his expertise with other physicians via the board’s Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programme.

During his visit he discussed with one of the island the island’s Ear, Nose and Throat specialist Dr Robert Vallis whether it could be
implemented.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun, Dr Byrne said: “For the surgery you can usually go home after it — it depends. Some are in-patients if they require rib cartilage to construct their nose.

“A lot of international visitors have to stay away  for one to three weeks and it is very disruptive to their home lives. If we can figure out a way in which they can be treated here in Bermuda and not have to travel it will be a great advantage for them not to have to leave their families and homes for too long.

“I do think it can happen, it is just a matter of logistics. In terms of the sophistication of the operating room and the equipment here I am quite confident, now that I have had a chance to visit, that that won’t be a problem.”

Dr Byrne has conducted surgery in other countries but he says Bermuda has a number of distinct advantages. For one it is an English speaking country and it is easy to get to from Baltimore-based John Hopkins.

He added: “The other advantage is having someone like Dr Vallis here  — his skill set is sophisticated he is very well trained so it is easy to identify the right patients. It makes sense for everybody.”

If it were to go ahead, Dr Vallis would identify patients on the island who required the specialised expertise and would liaise with Dr Byrne.

Dr Byrne’s trip to Bermuda was prompted by the number of  patients travelling to Johns Hopkins who require a high degree of specialisation.

The most common have been nasal deformities. Other injuries have been traumatic from the likes of sporting and traffic accidents. Others have been were congenital — an interesting case was a lady whose nose was progressively collapsing due to a very rare sinus problem — as well as cancerous deformities. During his presentation, Dr Byrne explained how much of the preparatory work for facial surgery for local patients can be done from Baltimore.

“We can essentially create models of the patients’ facial skeletal structures designed very accurately in advance and perform them on the computer to ensure that the accuracy with which we reconstruct these structures is optimal.

Custom design

“We can custom design our reconstructions based on our patients’ unique vascular anatomy. It allows us to have safer and better outcomes — it is an amazing advance.”

As well as virtual surgery and laser mapping of blood supply, Dr Byrne also discussed new biomaterials that are available that can can replace certain parts of the facial skeleton.

“We had a patient who had a big portion of the skull that needed to be replaced and we can use his CAT scan data to create a highly accurate precise, custom made replacement bone. The material is called peek which has as much strength as bone and incorporates well.”

During his talk to local physicians, Dr Byrne included an update on the latest advances in facial reconstruction choosing five specific new and devolving strategies in the field. 

One of the most popular topics of discussion during his visit was the exciting new field of facial transplantation. Only six transplants have so far been performed in the US but the technology is advancing. Johns Hopkins has recently approved its first facial transplant team for which Dr Byrne is the co-principal investigator.