What is Plastic Surgery?
To many, plastic surgery is synonymous with
cosmetic surgery. The true scope of plastic surgery
is much broader, encompassing both reconstructive
and elective aesthetic surgery. Reconstructive
surgery is exactly what it sounds like --
surgery to reconstruct part of the body after
a traumatic injury or cancer or another surgery.
Reconstructive surgery can also help correct a
congenital deformity -- one that's present at
birth. On the other hand, aesthetic surgery is
performed to improve normal appearance. Of course,
many plastic surgery procedures actually include
aspects of both reconstructive and aesthetic surgery.
The "plastic" in plastic surgery does
not refer to the petroleum-based material used
in containers, toys and numerous other consumer
products. It comes from the Greek, plastikos,
which means "to mold or to shape." In
fact, we can trace the origins of plastic surgery
back to around 700 B.C. -- the age of the Assyrian
kings. During their time, a prominent nose was
considered a symbol of power and authority and
nose augmentation, rather than reduction, was
the preferred surgery. Before guns were used in
battle, the mighty sword cut off many a nose (and
other body parts) so some of the earliest plastic
surgery procedures were used to reconstruct body
parts -- such as noses and limbs -- lost in battles
Plastic surgery, as we know it today, has its
roots in World Wars I and II, when battlefield
surgeons developed techniques to reconstruct wounded
soldiers' injured limbs. Plastic surgeons in the
first half of the 20th century also refined procedures
to restore faces and bodies disfigured by accidents,
diseases, and birth and developmental abnormalities.
Some plastic surgeons began to use the same methods
for those unhappy with their appearance for other
reasons. In the beginning, these surgeons who
performed "beauty surgery" were seen
as suspect and even disreputable. Even today,
some people associate cosmetic surgery's current
popularity with socioeconomic factors, such as
the growth of disposable income and the desire
to remain viable in a job market growing younger.
Whatever the reason, plastic surgery is on our
minds today more than ever.
For someone with a congenital or acquired deformity,
looking more "normal" is a wonderful
gift. For someone self-conscious about a facial
feature, redefining that feature is rejuvenating.
For the many shades of change between those two
extremes, looking better and feeling better about
one's appearance gives comfort and confidence.