Lifting plastic surgery to a higher level


For over 20 years, doctors Patrick Tonnard and Alexis Verpaele have not only been performing plastic surgery, but have also been working to advance the science behind cosmetic procedures. They are pioneers in their field, and their scientific breakthroughs are followed closely by professionals throughout the world. “But it all starts with our patients. We want to help them the best way we can and provide the best care in the world,” says Tonnard.

Two-thirds of the cosmetic procedures doctors Tonnard and Verpaele perform concern the face; the rest of the treatments involve breasts, liposuction and injectables. These can be performed in two locations, in Ghent and Sint-Martens-Latem. In 1997, the physicians opened the Coupure Center for Plastic Surgery in Ghent, which was linked to the hospital. “But we felt that a hospital was not the best location for our surgical interventions as a private clinic,” explains Verpaele.

“We wanted a place with the highest medical standards, as well as a location that makes patients feel comfortable.” In 2008 they opened a surgical centre in Sint-Martens-Latem, the Esthetisch Medisch Centrum 2, or E:MC2, just outside Ghent. “To us, E:MC2 stands for the unity of body and mind, with a nod to the relativity of the outer beauty.”

Inspired by patients

At Coupure, patients can come for the intake, consultations and treatments with injectables. At E:MC2, Tonnard and Verpaele perform surgical treatments. E:MC2 has two fully equipped operating rooms as well as four luxurious suites, where patients can recuperate from their surgery. “It is quite unique that a private clinic has such operating rooms. But our patients deserve to be treated the best way possible, both during a procedure as well as afterwards,” continues Verpaele. “Our staffs keeps in touch with patients to make sure they recuperate well. Patients appreciate that. Not a week goes by without us receiving a ‘thank you’ note from our patients. That is why we do what we do.”

Besides treating patients in their own clinic, they also help people in underdeveloped countries through the NGO See and Smile, which they co-founded in 2006. Each year, they undertake reconstructive plastic surgery missions to countries such as Myanmar to help people with cleft lip and cleft palates.

Driven by science

Not only their goal to offer the best care is a huge driver for Tonnard and Verpaele, but also the science behind cosmetic surgery is extremely important to them. They both completed a PhD in medicine for cosmetic surgery related topics. “No-one has ever done that before in Europe,” tells Verpaele.

Throughout their careers, the physicians discovered new treatments to advance the profession. In 2002, they discovered a new way to perform facelifts: the minimal-access cranial suspension, or MACS-lift. This uses a short, minimal incision to lift the skin vertically by suspending it from above. “The MACS-lift uses a shorter scar that is in front of the ear, instead of behind, which is much easier to hide,” elaborates Tonnard. “The MACS-lift surgery is safer because less skin is raised. And the results of the MACS-lift are much more natural than with a traditional facelift. Sometimes you can see from a 20-metre distance that someone has had ‘something done’. With the MACS-lift, you cannot,” he smiles.

They also introduced the use of ’micro-fat’ and ’nano-fat’ as a natural filler. Verpaele: “Body fat contains stem cells. We have created a method, as well as the instrumentation, to extract those stem cells in a very easy way. We found clinical proof that these stem cells interact with the existing skin cells and regenerate them. The treatment truly rejuvenates the skin. We, and others, are using our findings as the basis for further research into the stem cells and their application.” They have detailed their discoveries and their methods in a medical book, which was laureated with the prestigious Medical Book Award from the British Medical Association last September. “We have also written a layman’s version of the book which is published on our website, to explain the treatment to patients,” adds Tonnard. They are both highly-regarded speakers at scientific conferences throughout the world.

“With our procedures we want to help patients in any way we can. At the same time, we want to lift cosmetic surgery to a higher level,” smiles Verpaele. “It is what drives us, it is our passion,” concludes Tonnard.

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