Plastic surgery has been around for many centuries. The first surgeries during ancient times focused on reconstruction techniques. Plastic surgery has been refined over the years to mature into the types of plastic surgery we know today. The history of plastic surgery is an interesting topic because we find evidence that reconstructive surgery first appeared in places like Egypt, Rome, India, and Greece. Techniques developed in India were introduced in western countries over the centuries. Greco-Roman techniques were developed and adapted as well. The first American plastic surgeon was John Peter Mettauer, who performed the first cleft palate operation in 1827.
Why is it Called Plastic Surgery?
The word plastic means “reshapen”, deriving from the Greek plastikē. The invention of the modern synthetic plastic material came after the definition used with plastic surgery.
There are two main categories: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery.
Reconstructive surgery can include hand surgery, craniofacial surgery, burn treatment, and skin grafts. While this can alter the appearance, this focuses more on rebuilding and reshaping for functional purposes.
Cosmetic surgery, also known as aesthetic surgery, focuses on changing appearance rather than reconstruction. Common surgeries such as breast implants, a Brazilian Butt Lift, liposuction, and tummy tuck surgery are all cosmetic procedures.
Many times, surgery can be both reconstructive and cosmetic. In the United States, reconstructive surgery is more often covered by insurance. Surgery that is purely cosmetic is not covered by insurance. For example, breast reduction surgery can be both reconstructive and cosmetic, and in some cases can be covered by insurance.
How Did Plastic Surgery Start?
Plastic surgery began with facial reconstruction techniques. The nose was one of the first structures that early cosmetic surgery focused on. These techniques have been around for centuries. Cosmetic implants and modern techniques such as breast implants, tummy tuck, and Brazilian Butt Lift were developed in the twentieth century.
Who first invented plastic surgery?
The concept of surgery to help heal and close wounds has been around for a long time throughout human history. Plastic surgery in various forms has been around for centuries. Different countries had developed their own surgical techniques and uses, both for cosmetic and non-cosmetic surgery.
Ancient Roman medical writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus documented early methods of reconstruction for lips, noses, and ears in the De Medicina. Later, during the Byzantine Empire, Oribasius, a Greek medical writer, documented multiple techniques for facial reconstruction in his medical encyclopedia Synagogue Medicae.
In ancient India, surgical techniques were documented in a book from the 8th century BC, titled the Sushruta Samhita. Documented within this was a nasal reconstruction technique that used a flap of skin from the forehead to reconstruct the skin of the nose. This technique was re-published in 1794, and was known as ‘the Indian method’.
In the 1460s, surgeon Antonio Branca developed a technique for reconstructing the nose. This technique involved constructing a model of the nose from leather or parchment, then tracing this model onto the skin of the arm. The skin was then cut in the shape needed, while still remaining attached to the arm. The skin on the arm was then sewn to the nose, still attached to the arm. The arm was put in a brace and held up to the head. After several days, when the skin has somewhat healed to the nose, the skin flap was then cut free of the arm and allowed to heal separately.
At some points during the middle ages, medical techniques and surgeries faced opposition from the church. At one point, Pope Innocent III declared surgery of any kind against church law.
When Was The First Reconstructive Surgery?
The “father” of modern plastic surgery as it is seen in the Western world today is often thought to be Sir Harold Gillies. He developed many modern techniques of facial surgery in the early twentieth century when treating soldiers that were injured during World War I. After treating World War I soldiers, he continued his practice and treated soldiers during World War II as well. Gillies’s cousin, Archibald McIndoe, joined him in his practice and learned from his surgery training. McIndoe is often credited for the development of burn reconstruction techniques for the face and hands. As well, he pushed for rehabilitation to help soldiers reintegrate back into normal life.
Kita, N. (2020, May 16). History of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Verywell Health. Retrieved February, 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-history-of-plastic-surgery-2710193
(2019) History of plastic surgery. Available at: https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/services/services-a-z/plastic-surgery/facial-reconstruction-and-face-transplants/history-of-plastic-surgery/ (Accessed: February, 2022). National Health Service (2019) Check your symptoms “Plastic Surgery.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, January, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_surgery.