Plastic Surgery is a medical field that specializes in the restoration and correction of form and function.

Popular Questions regarding Plastic Surgery
  1. When did Plastic Surgery begin?
  2. What is the Difference between Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery?
  3. What procedures are considered Reconstructive Surgery?


Reconstructive surgery originated in ancient India in 2000BC. Sushruta,who is considered the 'father of surgery', made significant contributions to the field of plastic surgery. The term 'plastic surgery' does not derive from the artificial substance with the same name but from the Greek word 'plastikos' which means to shape or mould. One of the first procedures developed was the rhinoplasty which is the restructuring of the nose.

Before the invention of anesthesia, surgeries were extremely painful and were only preformed if they were considered to be crucial.

In the late 18th century, British surgeons, including Joseph Constantine Carpue, traveled to India to study procedures. He spent 20 years learning surgical techniques and preformed the first plastic surgery in the Western World in 1815.

Throughout history, medical procedures have been used to improve form and function to help people who have been severely disfigured and injured. Many advancements were made during times of war, aiding soldiers who had suffered distorting facial injuries. By the 20th century, plastic surgery had evolved so much in the Western World, a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery field opened at Washington University. Vilray Blair, the departments' first cheif, wrote the "Reconstructive Surgery of the Face", which served as a basic foundation of craniofacial reconstruction.

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Cosmetic vs. Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is what most people assume plastic surgery is. Cosmetic surgery procedures include breast augmentation, liposuction, penile implants, rhinoplasties, and many others. Cosmetic surgery usually implies that the surgery is meant only to boost self-esteem and enhance an individuals appearance.

Many celebrities either feel the need or are pressured into different types of plastic surgeries in an attempt to improve their public image. Popular icons like Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson, and recently Heidi Montag have all had different medical procedures to alter their physique.


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Positive Uses of Reconstructive (Plastic) Surgery Include:

  1. Burn victims
  2. Cleft Palate and Lip
  3. Microsurgery

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Reconstructive surgery are procedures that repair damaged tissue like people who have suffered from severe burns or have been in traumatic accidents. Victims of horrific accidents who are left disfigured tend to get reconstructive surgery in hopes of healing not just physically but mentally as well. Many burn victims suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and need to recover and be rehabilitated in order to move forward in life. The priorities most surgeons focus on for burn victims are form, function, and appearance. Depending on how extensive a burn is, determines what types of procedures are necessary. Urgent procedures are usually preformed if vital organs are exposed or in danger of being damaged.

In 1827, American plastic surgeon John Peter Mettauer preformed the first cleft palate procedure. Cleft palates and lips are birth defects that can be fixed with reconstructive surgery. Operation Smiles is an organization dedicated to helping people who suffer from cleft palates and lips. Children with a cleft palate and lip usually have difficulty eating and breathing. The irregular development of teeth can also occur causing further problems. Cleft lips and palate can occur an estimated 1 out of 700 children and can be successfully treated with simple reconstructive surgery.

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Microsurgery indicates the use of a operating microscope and important advances occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Microsurgery usually deals with reconstructive surgery, like free tissue transfer. Free tissue transfers are procedures that involve transferring healthy 'donor' tissue from one part of the body to a damaged area. Replantation is another type of microsurgery which involves reattaching fingers and thumbs. The main purpose of replantation is repairing function and the blood flow through veins and arteries.

Plastic Surgery and Society

Plastic surgery has always been used as a means to help and improve the lives of individuals who have been deformed from birth or from incidents that have occurred. However people have difficulties believe that plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery are synonymous. Not everyone who has breast augmentation wants to enlarge their breasts. Many women who have had mastectomies because of breast cancer tend to have reconstructive surgery to help improve their appearance, wanting only to achieve normalcy. Many men who have had testicles removed to stop the spread of prostate cancer opt to have implant operations in hopes of having what they had before they were physically altered by a debilitating disease. However, when Americans are asked about their views on Plastic Surgery, the opinions tend to be negative. People forget that plastic surgery is not just about wealthy people trying to physically alter their appearance, but for people who are physically deformed due to birth defects and severe accidents. Cancer survivors choose to have reconstructive procedures hoping to feel like they did before the cancer completely changed their lives.