Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery

T he use of surgical techniques for the correction of physical deformities is by no means a modern development. The practice goes back to ancient India, where as early as the sixth century B.C. Hindu specialists were reconstructing noses, reshaping ears, and grafting skin for reducing scar tissue.

Through the centuries, improvements in procedure and new types of operations became part of the common fund of information. During World War I, great technical advances were made when the Medical Corps of the United States Army created a special division of plastic surgery to treat the deformities caused by battle injuries. Today's plastic surgery is based on many of the procedures perfected then and during World War II.

Today, attention focuses not only on birth and injury deformities but on lesser irregularities as well. Surgeons in the field of cosmetic surgery perform such procedures as nose reconstruction, face lifting, reshaping of breasts, removal of fatty tissue from upper arms and legs, and the transplanting of hair to correct baldness. In the instance of hair transplants, hair follicles, commonly called plugs, are removed from dense areas of hair such as the side or back of the head and repositioned to bald areas. While largely effective, this surgery can be time-consuming, expensive, and painful.

There is no longer any reason for someone to suffer from the emotional and professional problems caused by abnormalities in appearance. No child should be expected to live with the disability of a cleft lip or crossed eyes. Anyone interested in undergoing any form of cosmetic surgery should stay away from so-called beauty experts, and deal only with a reputable surgeon or physician.

Some surgical specialists, called plastic surgeons , perform cosmetic or plastic surgery exclusively. Other surgeons and physicians, including general surgeons, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and others, are qualified to do some kinds of plastic surgery, usually the techniques related to their particular specialties. The kind of surgery desired should first be discussed with the family doctor, who can then evaluate the problem and recommend a qualified surgeon to deal with it.

Before undergoing any kind of plastic surgery, the prospective patient should realize that it is neither inexpensive nor totally painless. Most cosmetic surgery is performed in hospitals, which means that in addition to the surgeon's fees there can be a bill for the anesthetist, use of the operating and recovery rooms, and the hospital stay itself. Also, because cosmetic surgery is often optional surgery—surgery not needed to ensure the patient's physical health—it may not be covered by a health-insurance policy.


Excess fat can be removed by means of liposuction , also called suction lipectomy . The procedure is normally performed under general anesthesia. A blunt-tipped, hollow rod is inserted under the skin and moved through the fat tissue, suctioning out unwanted fat cells. Liposuction is most successful on the abdomen, hips, buttocks, and thighs.

Scar Reduction

Unsightly scars that are the result of a birth defect or an injury can usually be reduced by plastic surgery to thin hairlines. The procedure is effective only if there has been no extensive damage to surrounding areas of underlying tissue, as sometimes occurs in severe burns. The operation involves the removal of the old scar tissue, undermining the surrounding skin, and pulling it together with very fine stitches.

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