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History of Plastic Surgery

History of Plastic Surgery

Derived from the Greek word, plastikecomes the term plastic surgery, meaning the art of modelling or being malleable.  The specialty of plastic surgery is quite broad and includes reconstructive surgery such as cranio-facial surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery and burns surgery.  The specialty also includes cosmetic or aesthetic surgery.  The reconstructive surgery focuses on improving function and repairing abnormalities due to trauma, disease, developmental or congenital and the cosmetic surgery aims to improve the appearance of a region on the body.

Plastic surgical techniques have been found in early transcriptions from 3000-2500 BC. In this transcription it shows a record of the repair of a broken nose in Ancient Egypt as one of the oldest plastic surgical treatments. Reconstructive surgery was also performed in India by 800 BC and the Romans were also able to record very detailed information of anatomy and surgical techniques dating back to 1st Century BC.

Throughout various historical documentation the art of Plastic Surgery has been an ever evolving surgical specialty.  The modern history of Plastic Surgery dates back to World War 1 where a New Zealand surgeon, Sir Harold Gillies, repaired disfigured facial injuries of the injured soldiers. Sir Gillies is now considered the Grandfather of Plastic Surgery as he and his colleagues performed more than 11,000 operations on more than 5, 000 soldiers facial injuries.

The research and study into plastic surgery includes skin grafts, free flaps, burns treatments and other surgical techniques have been widely researched and techniques developed and improved.  Surgical techniques also include reconstruction after removing skin cancers, breast cancer and other tumors.  Transplanting parts of the body to other sites on the body using free flaps to reconnect blood supply to arteries and veins smaller than 2 millimeters in diameter are other common procedures.

Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is elective surgery to improve the appearance or minimise the signs or effects of ageing. Surgery in this sub specialty can include breast augmentation, facial surgery, laser resurfacing and many other surgical procedures.

It is important to not confuse the terms of cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery.  A plastic surgeon has completed many years of intense surgical training to be able to perform the complex surgery of reconstruction and cosmetic procedures. During this training, a Plastic Surgeon is faced with both complications and rare surgical situations that enable them to reach out to other Plastic Surgery colleagues through out the world in order to plan and perform the best possible treatment for the patient.