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surgeons operating
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Research areas


•  Burns
•  Cleft Lip and Palate
•  Craniofacial Surgery
•  Craniosynostosis and Plagiocephaly
•  Facial Reanimation
•  Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Palsy
•  Paediatric Congenital and Acquired Hand Conditions


In collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada, Dr. Joel Fish is developing new reliable methods to evaluate depth of burn and wound injuries using near infrared (NIR) technology. Through the development of Clinical Practice Guidelines, spearheaded by Charis Kelly, nurse practitioner, the team is providing leadership in burn care education worldwide.

Cleft Lip and Palate

With the leadership of Dr. David Fisher, the cleft lip and palate program is world renowned for research in advancing the surgical approach to cleft lip and palate repair.  In addition to ongoing clinical studies, a longitudinal study is currently being conducted to evaluate the ideal time for a cleft palate repair.

Enhancing the quality of life of children and families with Cleft Lip and Palate is a priority research area of this program. The development of patient-reported outcome measures (PRO) to evaluate the child and family’s experience with this condition is critical to this understanding. The team of Dr. Karen Wong and Dr. Christopher Forrest are paving the way in their development of the CLEFT-Q. The CLEFT-Q is a standardized PRO for children with cleft lip and/or palate.

Craniofacial Surgery

In collaboration with the hospital's  Centre for Image Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention, Dr. Christopher Forrest and Dr. John Phillips are using innovative imaging technology to generate a 3D computational model of the skull to refine surgical techniques.  

In collaboration with Dr. Nikoo Saber and Dr. James Drake, our research team has generated a normative skull database of infants between 8 to 12 months. This fundamental work provides a foundation for current research in developing mathematical computational models to increase the reliability in determining the location and number of cuts required to reconstruct the skull shape in children with craniosynostosis.  Future research areas will include the use of robotics to execute the mathematic computations under the direction of our surgical staff.

Craniosynostosis and Plagiocephaly

The Centre for Craniofacial Research uses 3D imaging technology to capture 3D surface images using the 3dMD Cranial System.  This system is integral to the clinical research conducted by Dr. Christopher Forrest in evaluating interventions for craniosynostosis and plagiocephaly.  This imaging technology provides linear anthropometric measurement, as well as surface and volume measures of the skull. This is essential in providing a comprehensive evaluation of the changes that a child may experience as a result of their condition or after surgical reconstruction.

Facial Reanimation

Under the direction of Dr. Ronald Zuker and Dr. Greg Borschel, research in the areas of facial reanimation has risen to great heights. The team is currently collaborating with Dr. Doug Cheyne in using the Magnetoencephalography (MEG) neuroimaging technique to evaluate spontaneity in activation of the gracilis muscle transfer in patients who have undergone facial reanimation.

Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Palsy

The research of the brachial plexus program at SickKids has received international recognition under the leadership of Dr. Howard Clarke. Dr. Clarke’s collaboration with Chris Curtis, physiotherapist, introduced the Active Movement Scale (AMS) as a valid and reliable motor assessment of the upper extremity in infants with brachial plexus injury. This seminal work has led to landmark and ongoing research to establish timing and technique of microsurgical repair of the brachial plexus.

Evaluation of functional outcome is also an important aspect of clinical research in the brachial plexus program. With the initiative of Emily Ho, occupational therapist, the team is studying outcomes in upper extremity function through the validation of a new assessment tool called the Brachial Plexus Outcome Measure (BPOM).  Areas of research also include understanding factors that relate to quality of life and pain in children with brachial plexus injuries.

General clinical studies are also being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Sevan Hopyan, orthopedic surgeon, to evaluate surgical reconstructive procedures recommended for this population.

Paediatric Congenital and Acquired Hand Conditions

Ongoing clinical research to evaluate surgical and non-surgical interventions for children with congenital hand differences and traumatic hand injuries is essential to optimize outcome. The research collaborations of Dr. Howard Clarke, Dr. Greg Borschel and Emily Ho focuses on establishing valid and reliable methods of evaluating pediatric upper extremity function in this population to conduct such evaluations. Priority is placed on employing qualitative methods to understand the family’s perspective of their child’s upper extremity condition.