Plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, and reconstructive surgery


Plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, and reconstructive surgery refers to a variety of operations performed in order to repair or restore body parts to look normal, or to change a body part to look better. These types of surgery are highly specialized. They are characterized by careful preparation of the patient's skin and tissues, by precise cutting and suturing techniques, and by care taken to minimize scarring. Recent advances in the development of miniaturized instruments, new materials for artificial limbs and body parts, and improved surgical techniques have expanded the range of plastic surgery operations that can be performed.


Although these three types of surgery share some common techniques and approaches, they have somewhat different emphases. Plastic surgery is usually performed to treat birth defects and to remove skin blemishes such as warts, acne scars, or birthmarks. Cosmetic surgery procedures are performed to make the patient look younger or enhance his or her appearance in other ways. Reconstructive surgery is used to reattach body parts severed in combat or accidents, to perform skin grafts after severe burns, or to reconstruct parts of the patient's body that were missing at birth or removed by surgery. Reconstructive surgery is the oldest form of plastic surgery, having developed out of the need to treat wounded soldiers in wartime.



Some patients should not have plastic surgery because of certain medical risks. These groups include:

  • Patients recovering from a heart attack, severe infection (for example, pneumonia), or other serious illness
  • Patients with infectious hepatitis or HIV infection
  • Cancer patients whose cancer might spread (metastasize)
  • Patients who are extremely overweight. Patients who are more than 30% overweight should not have liposuction
  • Patients with blood clotting disorders.


Plastic, cosmetic, and reconstructive surgeries have an important psychological dimension because of the high value placed on outward appearance in Western society. Many people who are born with visible deformities or disfigured by accidents later in life develop emotional problems related to social rejection. Other people work in fields such as acting, modeling, media journalism, and even politics, where their employment depends on how they look. Some people have unrealistic expectations of cosmetic surgery and think that it will solve all their life problems. It is important for anyone considering nonemergency plastic or cosmetic surgery to be realistic about its results. One type of psychiatric disorder, called body dysmorphic disorder, is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with imaginary or minor flaws in appearance. Patients with this disorder frequently seek unnecessary plastic surgery.


Plastic surgery

Plastic surgery includes a number of different procedures that usually involve skin. Operations to remove excess fat from the abdomen ("tummy tucks"), dermabrasion to remove acne scars or tattoos, and reshaping the cartilage in children's ears (otoplasty) are common applications of plastic surgery.

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