What is Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgery – any surgical operation to alter the appearance of a body area or part. Plastic surgery may be reconstructive (re-creates or repairs a body part that is damaged or missing) or cosmetic (changes physical appearance for reasons of personal preference).

Though both disciplines encompass elective operations, the US health-care system considers reconstructive surgery to be medically necessary; therefore, health insurance plans typically pay for reconstructive operations. Cosmetic surgery operations are not medically necessary and health insurance plans seldom pay for them.

In some circumstances the nature of a plastic surgery operation overlaps between cosmetic and reconstructive. For example, a person may desire rhinoplasty (nose alteration) because of dissatisfaction with the nose’s appearance, though the surgeon’s examination leads to the discovery that the person also has a deviated septum, which affects breathing and the health of the SINUSES. A person may seek plastic surgery to alter the perception of aging that arises from drooping eyelids, and then discover the eyelids obscure the field of vision.

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery rebuilds missing or lost structures with the goal to restore function. The loss may be due to numerous factors that include congenital anomaly, traumatic injury, burns, disease processes, and surgical treatment for conditions such as cancer. Reconstructive surgery is often complex and requires multiple operations to achieve the desired result. Reconstructive operations performed in childhood may need revision as the child grows.

Reconstructive surgeons may coordinate care and treatment with surgeons and physicians in other specialties such as orthopedics (bones and connective tissues) and neurology (nerves). Doctors often request a plastic surgeon to suture or otherwise repair lacerations and wounds to the face or hands. Plastic surgeons perform about five million operations a year in the United States.

Most Common Reconstructive Operations
Breast reconstructionCongenital anomaly reconstruction
Laceration repairOperations on the hands and fingers
Scar revisionTumor removal

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery alters appearance for aesthetic reasons and can have profound psychological and emotional benefits. US plastic surgeons perform more than nine million cosmetic surgery procedures a year, with Americans spending more than $8 billion to have them performed. Surveys suggest people who undergo cosmetic surgery are generally satisfied with the results, perceiving improvements in self-image and social interactions.

Realistic expectations are especially important when making cosmetic surgery decisions. Some cosmetic operations, such as rhytidoplasty (facelift), have long-lasting though not permanent effects because the skin and connective tissues continue to undergo natural changes with aging.

Most Common Cosmetic Operations
AbdominoplastyAugmentation mammoplasty
BlepharoplastyBody contouring after significant weight loss

Plastic Surgery Benefits and Risks

The benefits of plastic surgery often encompass improved function, appearance, and self-image or self-esteem. Specific benefits vary with the operation and often are not entirely apparent for weeks to months after the operation when healing is complete. As with all operations, plastic surgery operations entail risk.

General risks include excessive bleeding during or after surgery, postoperative wound infection, pneumonia (a complication of general anesthesia), unpredictable SCAR formation, and unsatisfactory or unexpected results. Death during or as a complication of plastic surgery is very rare though can occur.

Cigarette smoking, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease (pvd) can limit peripheral blood circulation, slowing healing and increasing the risk for complications.

It is not possible for the surgeon to guarantee the outcome of a plastic surgery operation. People sometimes have unrealistic expectations for what the operation can achieve, leading to dissatisfaction with the results. It is crucial to thoroughly understand what the operation can and cannot accomplish and the full spectrum of potential complications and risks; it is equally important to select a qualified (board-certified) plastic surgeon who is experienced in performing the desired operation and who performs surgeries in an appropriately credentialed and licensed facility.

Plastic Surgery Operations
abdominoplastyaugmentation mammoplasty
birthmark removal or reductionblepharoplasty
body contouringbrachioplasty
breast reconstructionbrow lift
cervicoplastyfacial implants
hair transplantationlaceration repair
laser skin resurfacinglip augmentation
platysmaplastypolydactyly correction and reconstruction
reduction mammoplastyrhinoplasty
rhytidoplastyscar revision
sclerotherapyskin graft
syndactyly releasetissue flap surgery


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