Implications of Rheumatic Disease and Biological Response-Modifying Agents in Plastic Surgery

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The preoperative evaluation for any reconstructive or aesthetic procedure requires a detailed history of existing medical conditions and current home medications. The prevalence of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and psoriasis is high, but the impact of these chronic illnesses on surgical outcome and the side effects of the powerful medications used for treatment are often underappreciated. In this review, the authors highlight key perioperative considerations specific to rheumatologic diseases and their associated pharmacologic therapies. In particular, the authors discuss the perioperative management of biological response-modifying agents, which have largely become the new standard of therapy for many rheumatic diseases. The literature reveals three key perioperative concerns with biological therapy for rheumatic disease: infection, wound healing delays, and disease flare. However, data on specific perioperative complications are lacking, and it remains controversial whether withholding biological therapy before surgery is of benefit. The risk of these adverse events is influenced by several factors: age, sex, class of biological agent, duration of exposure, dosage, onset and severity of disease, and type of surgical procedure. Overall, it remains best to develop an individualized plan. In younger patients with recent onset of biological therapy, it is reasonable to withhold therapy based on 3 to 5 half-lives of the specific agent. In older patients with a substantial history of rheumatic disease, the decision to discontinue therapy must be weighed and decided carefully in conjunction with the rheumatologist.

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