November 20, 2017

Lambros K. Viennas, MD, FACS

Chief, Division of Plastic Surgery, and Assistant Professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School; Chairman, Department of Plastic Surgery, Sentara Norfolk General and Leigh Memorial Hospitals

When visiting his dentist as a child, Lambros Viennas found the dental laboratory fascinating. The son of a carpenter, Viennas always enjoyed working with his hands, as evidenced by the clay models and art projects that filled his room. His dentist, he saw, could make teeth – crowns, bridges and dentures that gave patients the ability to chew and smile with confidence again.

Viennas’ elementary school dream job took him to dental school at the University of Maryland, where he discovered oral surgery. Then, during a subsequent residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Temple University Hospital, he encountered patients with head and neck cancers who required complicated reconstructive plastic surgeries to fix significant facial deformities.

“During our training, we had the opportunity to assist the plastic surgeons,” Viennas recalls. “Seeing what a difference those surgeons could make on the patients’ lives was a turning point for me. I wanted to have the skill set to be able to reconstruct any part of the body.”

Today, Viennas is responsible for all facets of plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School, helping everyone from cancer survivors, trauma injury or burn victims, people with excess skin after massive weight loss and patients seeking cosmetic rejuvenation procedures. He also is an important referral source for many local hospital- and community-based physicians, especially on complicated cases.

Reconstructive cases comprise a significant part of Viennas’ workload, with breast and facial reconstructions in oncology patients among his particular specialties. With improved technologies and advanced techniques such as skin substitutes, filler materials, fat grafting, microvascular tissue transfer and 3D computer imaging, the field of plastic surgery continues to evolve, giving patients more treatment options and improving outcomes.

Plastic surgeons now have a variety of methods to transfer a patient’s own tissue for reconstruction of the face, breast or other body parts. Complex cases sometimes require removal of tissue from one area to rebuild another – such as moving a muscle from the back to the head and then, under a microscope, connecting its small blood vessels there. “Skin substitutes are also being used to regenerate new skin without using the patient’s own tissues,” Viennas notes. “Hopefully, this technology and research will continue to develop and allow us to grow organs and other body parts in the future.”

In addition, new filler materials and fat grafting techniques have transformed the approach to improving the aesthetic outcomes of reconstructive procedures. If a patient has a depressed scar, for example, “filler material or fat grafts can be placed under the scar to improve the appearance,” Viennas states. “Recent observations by plastic surgeons have also noted rejuvenating changes of the overlying skin after fat grafting, which is currently being studied.”

Meanwhile, surgeons can pre-plan major reconstructions before an operation ever begins, using three-dimensional computer imaging and 3D prints. “That is especially helpful for facial reconstruction in trauma or cancer patients, because the technology allows you to determine the tissue requirements and the exact position for placement,” Viennas says.

While he has more tools than ever to help patients regain both form and function, Viennas also is a firm believer in the simple power of listening. “The challenge is that every case is different,” he says. “As a doctor, you need to understand and care about each person’s concerns and goals. Only then can you develop a tailored treatment plan and recommend the procedures with the best chance of success.”

Born to Greek immigrants who left their country after World War II decimated its economy, Viennas grew up in Baltimore and earned his medical degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He followed that with a general surgery residency at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore and a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at Pennsylvania State University. He also completed international rotations in oral and maxillofacial surgery and craniofacial surgery at, respectively, hospitals in England and Australia.

Viennas joined EVMS Surgery in 2009 after more than 14 years in private practice in Baltimore, where he also was a Clinical Instructor at Johns Hopkins University. As the reconstructive plastic surgeon member of the EVMS Breast Center, he is able to evaluate women with their surgical oncologist. He also is affiliated with Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Leigh Hospital and the Sentara Princess Anne Ambulatory Surgery Center, and he teaches surgical principles and techniques to medical students and residents on a daily basis as Educational Director of EVMS Plastic Surgery.

Rebuilding body parts lost to disease or trauma is so rewarding because patients stand to gain not only self-confidence but greater independence and overall health, Viennas notes. “The objective is always to achieve not only cosmesis, but both form and function. If you’re reconstructing the lips, for example, it’s critical to restore the skin’s cosmetic appearance, the mucosal lining inside the mouth and the muscle function so a patient can smile, speak, retain food when eating and avoid drooling.”

On the cosmetic side of plastic surgery, Viennas handles the gamut of common procedures, such as facelifts, brow lifts, blepharoplasties, breast augmentations and reductions, liposuction, body contouring and excess skin removal in weight loss patients.

Married to a pediatrician and father to two boys, Viennas is grateful that his childhood interest in dentistry was a steppingstone into the ever-evolving world of reconstructive surgery. “It’s always an exciting and innovative field,” he says. “I feel like I have the best job in the world.”