What is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery has certainly  received a lot of media attention in the past few years especially with shows such as “Extreme Makeover”.  Despite all of this attention a lot is still not understood about plastic surgery.  First the name –  plastic surgery is derived form the Greek word Plastikos which means to bend or shape.   The substance plastic can be molded or shaped into any shape one desires.    Plastic surgeons mold or shape the body to change the contour or to even remake a part and so the name Plastic Surgery.  A very good example is when the skin and fat of the abdomen is used to recreate a breast after cancer treatment.  This procedure is called a Tram flap.  Extra skin and fat of the abdominal wall can be transferred to the chest area with the blood supply coming from the rectus muscle.  Once the abdominal tissue is up on the chest it can be molded and shaped to match the opposite breast.

Plastic surgery includes both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.  The definition of a cosmetic procedure is one done to improve on the normal.   A reconstructive procedure is one done to restore the normal form or function.  Although the goal is different the surgical techniques are often the  same.  For example a breast implant can be placed for augmentation of  a breast in a cosmetic operation or a breast implant can be placed to reconstruct a breast after cancer.  The implants are the same, the surgical techniques are similar but the reasons for the operations are very different.

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