For thousands of years, people have been seeking methods in which to improve themselves. Through centuries of intellectual and scientific breakthroughs, a surgical specialty emerged to conquer this task. But what exactly is plastic surgery and why is it called that? We’re here with everything you need to know about plastic surgery, from where it all began to how far we’ve come, to the most popular procedures in the industry.

What Is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery is a medical specialty used to describe a broad range of procedures that are performed to enhance or change a person’s appearance for aesthetic or corrective reasons. Plastic surgery deals with “the repair, reconstruction, or replacement” of various parts of the body in order to alter, change, or improve these structures. Both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery fall under this blanket term, with cosmetic surgery being used for aesthetic purposes and reconstructive surgery used to improve quality or function. Surgeons in this area require specialized knowledge, skills, and techniques not seen in other areas of medicine.

Origin of the Term “Plastic Surgery”

Though these types of surgeries are known as “plastic” surgery, the term has no real connection to the “plastic” you know today. The term, like many other words in the English language, is derived from the Greek language. Coined from the Greek word plastikos, which means to shape or mold something, the term plastic surgery was first used in the 1800s to describe the process in which doctors and surgeons reshaped or molded body tissue. With a desire to change or improve our appearances, plastic surgery is one of the earliest forms of medicine.

Plastic Surgery: Where It All Began

Plastic surgery may have gained popularity in recent decades, but people have been practicing the art of altering body tissue since ancient times. Often referred to as “one of the world’s oldest healing arts,” people have been working towards improving and restoring the human body for thousands of years. From that time, plastic surgery education, procedures, and techniques have developed into the plastic surgery industry you know today. In our ever-changing world, our pursuit of self-improvement has been unflinching since the dawn of time.

Historical Timeline

  • 2000 B.C.: The first written evidence of humans using medical treatments to treat facial and skin injuries.
  • 800 B.C.: Reconstructive work and skin grafts are used in Ancient India.
  • 1460 (A.D.): The first known medical text for plastic surgery procedures is created; a precursor to the “nose job.”
  • The 1700s: Western doctors visit Eastern nations and begin bringing back procedures to Europe, where the practice begins to develop into the specialty we know today.
  • 1794: The first skin grafting procedure is published and begins to be widely used.
  • 1827: The first cleft palate operation is performed in the New World.
  • The 1800-1900s: War in different areas of the world become the driving force for plastic surgery developments, to fulfill the need for healing traumatic injuries. The first plastic surgery textbook is created during this time.
  • 1924: The first formal training program for plastic surgery is created at John Hopkins.
  • 1930-1940: The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is founded, as well as the American Board of Plastic Surgery, to regulate and further the advancement of plastic surgery.
  • 1942: Plastic surgery earns a spot in the public eye, while surgeons work full-force to reconstruct burn and injury victims of war. It is during this time that the first experimentations with breast augmentation occur in the brothels of Japan.
  • 1962: A woman in Texas becomes the first person to receive silicone breast implants.

Pioneering Doctors and Procedures

  • Antonio Branca: Associated with the earliest reconstructions of the nose in the 1400s.
  • Dr. John Peter Mettauer: America’s first plastic surgeon, who performed the first cleft palate operation and pioneered surgical techniques and instruments used in plastic surgery in the 1800s.
  • Felix Jean Casimir Guyon and Jacques Reverdin: Two surgeons who developed skin grafting techniques in 1869 that are still used today.
  • Sir Harold Gillies: A New Zealand otolaryngologist performs the first sex change operation.
  • Dr. Varaztad Kazanjian: The “founding father” of modern plastic surgery.
  • Jacques Maliniac and Gustave Aufricht: Helped turn plastic surgery into an industry and founded the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 1937.

The Most Common Plastic Surgery Procedures

There are a wide variety of procedures and surgeries that fall under the plastic surgery category. These can be either cosmetic, aesthetic, or reconstructive. Here are some of the most commonly practiced procedures today:

Facial Surgery: Procedures on the face can include blepharoplasty (eyelid reshaping), rhinoplasty (nose job), otoplasty (ear pinning or ear reshaping), and rhytidectomy (facelift). You can also find procedures to augment your chin, repair damage to earlobes, and more.

Breast Surgery: Plastic surgery on the breasts can include cosmetic corrections, reductions, and augmentations. Breast surgery can be performed to enlarge, replace, or perfect the shape of your breast tissue. Mastopexy (breast lift), breast augmentation (enlargement), breast reduction, and asymmetry breasts correction are all popular plastic surgery procedures.

Lifts and Liposuction: Liposuction involves removing fat from specific areas of the body, like the stomach, thighs, buttocks, and more. Lifts can be done on almost any part of the body, removing excess skin and tightening your skin around the body. The most common places lifts are performed are the face, neck, and stomach. Procedures include abdominoplasty (also known as a tummy tuck), body contouring, and brachioplasty (arm lift).

Plastic surgery procedures can also include cosmetic services like Botox injections or dermal fillers, laser services for hair and tattoo removal, as well as laser therapy for skin conditions, scar reduction, and anti-aging solutions. Even hair treatments and surgical procedures can be considered plastic surgery.

In an effort to improve the human condition, the medical field continues to strive for bigger and better treatment options. If you’re interested in any of the procedures the wide world of plastic surgery has to offer, it’s essential to consult a trusted and trained medical professional for all of your plastic surgery needs.