Why Is It Called Plastic Surgery?

History of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Although we tend to think of modern medicine when we think of plastic surgery, it is actually one of the world’s oldest treatments, with corrective surgeries going back more than 4000 years. As early as 800 B.C., physicians in ancient India used skin grafts for reconstructive surgery. One of the next notable instances of plastic surgery in the history books occurs in the Roman medicine book De Medicina, in which Aulus Cornelius Celsius, who lived from around 25 BC to 50 AD, explained the process of reconstructing ears, lips, and noses.

It was during the Renaissance that there were many more developments in what was to become the plastic surgery field. For example, there is a fifteenth-century Islamic text called Imperial Surgery written by Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu that explains 191 surgical topics like maxillofacial surgery and eyelid surgery.

World War I was the next point in time that developments in plastic surgery made a resurgence. This was because military physicians were required to treat facial and head injuries that soldiers sustained in battle. In order to heal these wounds, the military physicians had to be innovative and work to create the most natural-looking outcome for the patient. These innovations were what made surgeons realize the full extent to which they could reshape a patient’s appearance and change their life for the better.

How Plastic Surgery Got Its Name

Reconstructive vs. Cosmetic Surgery

Just like the practice itself, the name plastic surgery has a rich history. The term plastic surgery comes from the Greek word plastike, teckhne, which is the process of modeling or sculpting. In 1937, the American Board of Plastic Surgery was established and it was accredited by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 1941.

There are two main areas of plastic surgery: reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. The purpose of reconstructive plastic surgery is to correct facial and body abnormalities from birth defects, trauma, disease, and aging. Reconstructive surgery can also be implemented to address medical conditions like cancer. While it can be used to create an ideal appearance, the main purpose of reconstructive surgery is to improve function for the patient in a certain area. We perform cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, to enhance an individual’s appearance and correct certain areas that might be sources of insecurity. Cosmetic surgery is an elective procedure because the patient chooses it when they want to enhance a certain area of their body.

Even though the material “plastic” is not the reason behind the name of the field, there are certain procedures in which plastic surgeons do place substances that resemble plastic implants into a patient. For example, silicone is one of the most common material choices available to plastic surgeons for an implant. Other options of implant material include GORE-TEX ® and MEDPOR. Gore-Tex is a newer implant material composed of expanded poly-tetrafluroethelene. It comes in a white, spongy material that is easy to tailor to each individual patient. There is a low risk of infection and implant rejection with this material. Med-Por, on the other hand, is a less common material, but is still sometimes a part of chin implantations. Med-Por is made of polyethylene that can be shaped for the patient before we insert it. It is a biocompatible material that has a low risk of infection or rejection.

Another revolutionary option for patients, in addition to the traditional “plastic” materials, is using a patient’s own body tissue. This is a great way for patients to have an artificial enhancement while remaining as natural as possible. It has multiple benefits for many patients because it allows us to remove fat from an area they might not want it, like the stomach, and place it in another area where they might desire more of it, like the breasts. Even the smallest changes can make a major impact on a patient’s self-esteem. While plastic surgery might not have originally gotten its name from the material plastic, the name has stuck and the field has been improving the self-esteem and quality of life for patients ever since.

Curious what plastic surgery can do for you? Call us at (805) 978-8545 or contact us online.

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