Plastic Surgery: An Overview

Plastic surgery has become a popular term in the last two to three decades, but it is often misjudged and misunderstood. The availability of Plastic surgery options and the number of people undergoing it have increased by leaps and bounds. 

It has become a practice that celebrities and influential people undergo these procedures often. This adds to its popularity and has  led to a lot of speculation about what exactly ‘plastic surgery’ means.

Most people think that reconstructive surgery consists of the most popularly known surgeries that film artists have to retain their youthful appearance. Even though they are closely related specialties, there is a fine divide between Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery.

What is Plastic Surgery?

The term Plastic surgery comes from the Greek word plastic ‘plastikos’ which means ‘to mould’. Plastic surgeons perform these procedures to restore the function and appearance of various human body parts. 

Plastic surgery can be of two kinds – reconstructive surgery and secondly aesthetic or cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive plastic surgery restores the function lost of any of your body parts. It could be due to burns, an accident, cancer, or birth defects. Whereas aesthetic or cosmetic surgery improves or alters your appearance. Reconstructive surgery procedures can be done on all parts of your body, right from the hair to your feet. For more info on reconstructive surgery you can visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.

The main area of reconstructive surgery is to set right the defects in your body to reconstruct the body part. So that it gives a natural appearance. And also to restore the normal functioning of your body part that is being operated upon. It is a surgical procedure that involves reconstructing your facial and body flaws due to burns, birth, diseases, and trauma.

Your board certified plastic surgeon can repair and reconstruct your missing or damaged tissue and skin. The main aim of Plastic surgery is to restore the function of your tissues and the skin. Note that improving the appearance of your body parts is an important but secondary aim of a Plastic surgeon. 

Plastic surgery is different from cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is surgery carried out solely to change your appearance to achieve what they feel is a more desirable look.

Some Plastic Surgery Procedures

  • Hand surgery
  • Burn repair surgery
  • Reconstruction of breasts (also involves enhancement and reduction)
  • Repair of congenital defects. Includes reconstruction and repair of cleft palate and repair of extremity defects.
  • Scar revision surgery
  • Reconstruction of lower extremities.

What is Cosmetic Surgery?

The goal of the Cosmetic surgeon is to aesthetically enhance your appearance. Hence the procedures, principles and techniques used focus entirely on this outcome. The goal is to improve the proportion, aesthetic appeal, and symmetry of your body part on which the surgery is being performed.

Cosmetic surgery can be performed on any area of your body, including your head and neck. It is a choice made by you to have cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery can be performed by your plastic surgeon as well as your doctor from various medical fields.

Procedures related to cosmetic surgery includes:

Body contouring – includes liposuction, tummy tuck, and gynecomastia treatment.

Breast enhancement – Reduction, enlargement, and lifting.

Facial contouring – Cheek enhancement, chin, and rhinoplasty.

Facial rejuvenation – Eyelid lift (eyelid surgery), brow lift, face lift, and neck lift.

Skin rejuvenation – Botox, filler treatment, and laser resurfacing.

The Difference Between Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery

Both plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures can improve your body parts. But the overall philosophies that guide their goals, training and research involved for patients’ results are quite different. Each area has its specific goals that carry out a distinct set of procedures.

Cosmetic surgery is a unique medical discipline that focuses on enhancing appearance through surgical techniques. This surgery can be performed on all areas of the neck, head, and body. Cosmetic surgery is elective as the treatment increases your aesthetic appeal but has nothing to do with the functioning. 

On the other hand, this surgery is dedicated to the reconstruction of your facial and body defects.  Birth disorders, burns, trauma, accident, and disease could have caused these defects. In simple terms, this surgery intends to correct dysfunctional areas of your body. Hence they are reconstructive.

Why Do Teens and Adults Get Plastic Surgery?

Most teens or adults do not, but some do of course. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and American Board of Plastic Surgery teens view reconstructive surgery as a way to fit in and look acceptable to peers and friends. In contrast, adults frequently see reconstructive surgery as a way to stand out from the crowd.

According to the ASPS, more than 200,000 people who are 19 years and younger – had either major or minor plastic surgical procedures in one year. This is a huge figure that shows people are opting for this procedure at a very young age. 

Some individuals turn to reconstructive surgery to correct a physical defect or to change a part of the body that makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, boys with gynecomastia (excess breast tissue) often opt for reconstructive surgery. These excess tissues do not go away with time or with any weight loss programs. So this surgery is the option left to remove these excess tissues. In addition, girls or boys with a birthmark may often turn to laser treatment to lessen their appearance.

Other people turn to plastic surgeons when they want a cosmetic change because they are not happy about the way they look. Such procedures include – otoplasty (surgery to pin back ears that stick out) or dermabrasion (a procedure that can help smooth severe acne scars). After these procedures, they feel more comfortable with their appearance.

The most common procedures popular among teens include ear surgery, nose reshaping, acne scar treatment, breast augmentation, and breast reduction.

Is Plastic Surgery the Right Choice?

As you are aware, reconstructive surgery helps repair significant problems or defects. But what about having cosmetic surgery only to change your appearance? As with everything, there are right and wrong reasons to have the surgery done.

You need to understand that cosmetic surgery is unlikely to change your life drastically. Your trained surgeon will spend a lot of time with patients interviewing them to determine if they are a good candidate for the surgery. Doctors also ensure that teens are emotionally mature enough to handle the surgery and opt for the right reasons.

Most of the reconstructive  surgery procedures are just that – surgery. They involve anesthesia, the procedure and wound healing, and other serious risks. Doctors who perform these surgeries make sure the patients can understand and handle the stress of surgery.

Your surgical specialty might do not perform specific procedures like rhinoplasty on a teen until they are sure that person is old enough and has finished growing. It is only after the age of  15 or 16 years that rhinoplasty should be performed. 

The main aim of the surgery is to reconstruct your body part. It also tries to enable dysfunctional body parts to function in their normal and natural mode. 

Girls interested in enlarging their breasts for cosmetic reasons must be 18 because saline implants are only approved for women ages 18 years and older. In some cases, severe cases a plastic surgeon may get involved earlier.

When Plastic Surgery is Used

Plastic surgery can be used to repair:

  • The treatment can help remove abnormalities from birth, like cleft lip and palate, webbed fingers, and birthmarks.
  • The removal of cancerous tissue damages parts of the body. It could be in the area like the face or breast.
  • In case of extensive burns or other serious injuries.
  • Plastic surgery can help improve your self-esteem, confidence and overall quality of life.

Plastic Surgery Techniques

The main techniques commonly used during reconstructive surgery are:

  • Skin grafts – Your doctor will remove healthy skin from an unaffected area of your body and use it to replace lost or damaged skin.
  • Tissue expansion – Your surrounding tissue is stretched to enable your body to “grow” extra skin. It is then used to help reconstruct the nearby areas.
  • Skin flap surgery – It is a procedure where a piece of tissue from one part of your body is transferred to another, along with the blood vessels that keep it alive. This is called flap surgery because the healthy tissue usually remains partially attached to your body while it is repositioned.

Apart from these, there are other techniques, Plastic surgeons also use these methods during their treatment, such as:

  • Grafting or fat transfer  – When fat is removed from one part of your body and inserted in another area. The procedure is usually used to correct unevenness.
  • Vacuum closure – Where suction is applied to a wound through a sterile piece of foam to draw out fluid and encourage healing.
  • Prosthetic devices – When artificial limbs are used.

Risks of Plastic Surgery 

As with any surgery, there are risks associated with reconstructive surgery. The degree of risk will depend on the size of your affected area, your surgeon’s level of experience, and your overall health.

Some procedures do carry specific risks, but general risks include pain and discomfort, infection, bleeding, and in some cases scarring as well. You should contact your surgeon if you have any concerns after surgery, like unexpected pain, discharge, swelling, or other side effects. 

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