The history of plastic surgery is as interesting as the modern advances that have been made in this surgical specialty. Humans, since time immemorial, have always tried to find ways to improve or recover our physical appearance.

For instance, the ancient Egyptians, as far back as 1600 BCE, were performing a rudimentary form of reconstruction surgery on a broken nose. This fascinating insight came to us via the most ancient medical text known as the Edwin Smith papyrus, or The Secret Book of the Physician.

Sushruta, widely called the Father of Plastic Surgery, was experimenting with plastic surgery in India way back in the 6th century BC.

Plastic surgery has come a long way since then. According to data provided by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 13.6 million non-surgical procedures along with 11.36 million plastic surgery operations were carried out in 2019. This just goes to show that surgery of this kind has grown to become a common occurrence. If you’re considering a career in the medical sciences, then this surgical specialty is a good way to go. It might be a highly competitive medical field but it comes with its own perks.

Different Types of Plastic Surgery

The English phrase ‘plastic surgery’ owes its origins to the Greek word ‘plastikos’, which essentially means ‘to mold, or shape’.

The procedures that a plastic surgery specialist conducts can be divided into two broad categories:

  • Reconstructive Surgery

The most crucial factor that defines reconstructive surgery is that, most of the time, it is covered by health insurance plans. That means a number of reconstructive surgeries are considered to be medically essential. This particular group of surgeries is all about trying to restore the patient’s normal appearance and function to what it was before a trauma-inducing condition. 

For instance, a breast cancer survivor who has had to undergo a mastectomy or lumpectomy might consider breast reconstruction surgery. Reconstruction of a burn victim’s skin and birth deformities are also grouped under reconstructive surgery. For example, cleft lip and palate repair fall under this type of plastic surgery.

  • Cosmetic Surgery

The main difference between cosmetic and reconstruction surgery is that the former is not considered medically essential. A cosmetic plastic surgeon performs procedures to augment the natural anatomy of a person with the sole purpose of improving their physical appearance.

Breast augmentation, abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, facelift, liposuction, dermabrasion, and lip augmentation are some of the common cosmetic surgeries that people opt for. An important question you should ask yourself before deciding to get cosmetic surgery is “do I really need it?”. And if the answer is yes, then the follow-up question should be “am I physically in good shape to undergo such a procedure?”.

Reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery always tend to overlap because the surgical principles involved are very much the same. The common denominator between the two is that the final cosmetic modification should be high on the aesthetic scale. That’s why it is crucial for a plastic surgeon to be extremely straightforward with the patient about the end results of the surgery.

Insurance coverage is another area where the lines between the two broad types of plastic surgery are blurred. It all depends from patient to patient, and their condition will determine whether a procedure is considered reconstructive or cosmetic. For instance, nose surgery or rhinoplasty sometimes falls under a cosmetic procedure in which a patient wants to enhance the contours of their nose. However, rhinoplasty can be medically essential in the case of a serious nasal fracture that hinders a patient’s breathing.

Possible Health Issues Due to Plastic Surgery

No matter what kind of surgery you need, there is always a certain amount of risk involved. In the case of plastic surgery, each patient’s anatomical makeup and ability to heal is different. Hence, you need to have an open discussion with your plastic surgery specialist.

Certain complications associated with reconstructive or cosmetic surgery include:

  • Delay and/or difficulty in healing of the wound
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding, bruising and/or soreness
  • Anaesthesia issues

The above-mentioned issues are mostly dealt with by your healthcare provider. But, at times, the risk of these complications could increase if you smoke or don’t follow a healthy nutrition program. If you suffer from immunity issues or any other ailments, then it is best to come clean with the specialist right at the outset. This way they will advise you on the safest possible solution. 

Plastic Surgery Techniques

If you’re considering reconstructive or cosmetic surgery, the first question you might’ve asked yourself is “what does a plastic surgeon do?”

Besides studying your medical history and prepping you for an upcoming procedure, a plastic surgeon uses a variety of surgical techniques depending on the case at hand:

  • Skin flap surgery: By this method, a piece of tissue is transferred from one part of the body to another that has suffered the loss of muscle movement, skeletal support, fat or skin. In a number of cases, the healthy tissue is kept partially attached to the blood vessels. However, in the case of microvascular free flap surgery, both skin and blood vessels are reattached using microsurgery.

  • Skin graft: A process by which skin is removed from one area of the body and used on another trauma-affected area. This is a common procedure for those who have endured deep burns, bedsores, skin ulcers/infections, and large, open wounds. Depending on the nature of the trauma, a plastic surgery specialist will decide on a split-thickness graft (for large wounds) or a full-thickness graft (minor wounds on visible sections of the body).

  • Tissue expansion: In this method, body tissue is stretched to cover the injured area so that the body can “grow” extra skin as time goes by. This kind of surgery is decided upon for either congenital defects or injury-induced wounds and scars. 

Besides the techniques mentioned here, fat transfer, vacuum closure, camouflage cream and prosthetic devices also fall under the broad umbrella of plastic surgery.

As the pandemic spread around the world, cosmetic plastic surgery, usually considered medically non-essential, was pushed to the background. However, 2020 saw a surge in the number of rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, facelifts, and chin liposuctions. Moreover, the millennial population is ageing and such procedures will continue to be popular in the future. In terms of reconstructive surgeries, there will always be a need for patients to remove blemishes and permanent scars. The different types of plastic surgery will certainly regain popularity as the world returns to normal.

Medicine has a variety of specialities, and at AUAMED we always ensure that our students choose a field after exploring the myriad options available to them. This allows our to-be doctors to make an informed decision, and becoming a plastic surgeon specialist is certainly a smart choice. 

Helping people look as beautiful as they want to be is just the tip of the iceberg. A reconstructive specialist can help patients recover their self-confidence by getting rid of blemishes. At AUAMED, surgical specialities are given as much importance as other fields of medicine. This is to ensure that students can explore plastic surgery in detail before deciding if it is the right choice for them. As the surgeries get more medically innovative, less invasive, and quite affordable, this is one speciality that you should really consider above the rest.