Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media Contact: John Lazarou or John Sales
410-502-8902; [email protected]
June 21, 2005


A procedure using FDA-approved barbed sutures to lift sagging or wrinkling skin from the brow, midface and neck is currently being performed by surgeons in the Johns Hopkins Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The procedure provides a low-risk alternative to a face-lift for people looking for subtle, quicker results with less pain, according to Craig A. Vander Kolk, M.D., co-director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center and a professor of plastic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  The process takes approximately one hour under local anesthesia and uses the only barbed suture to have FDA approval.

Each suture, like a porcupine’s quill, contains tiny barbs, placed at equal intervals on the thread, which grab tissue.  Thus, once a thread is inserted (via a small incision) along the contour lines of the face and tension is applied upward, the barbs pull the skin tissue.  Collagen forms around the suture to maintain the elevation of the skin.  The results depend on several factors, including the patient’s age, facial structure or amount of facial fat. The process also is reversible.

“This is the first minimally invasive way to reposition tissues that have begun to go flaccid with age,” said Vander Kolk.

Vander Kolk is one of 300 physicians in the nation to have been trained to perform the procedure at Hopkins, where he also directs a hospital-based training center that instructs surgeons on the technique.

Vander Kolk notes that there are no studies to judge the operation’s long-term effectiveness, and some physicians question the ability of the sutures, made from clear polypropylene, to hold tissues for extended periods of time.  Clear polypropylene has been used in other medical products for years and is not absorbed by the body.

The sutures are manufactured by Surgical Specialties Corporation.