What is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery is a term derived from the Greek word √ęplastikos√≠, which means to mould. Although some plastic surgery techniques have been practised since antiquity, it is a speciality which in modern times has really blossomed since World War One when surgeons were called upon to reconstruct the faces of infantrymen who had received facial injuries in the trenches. Between the wars the area of craniofacial surgery was developed, and then in World War Two plastic surgeons once again came to the fore reconstructing burnt fighter pilots using skin grafts and flaps.

Hand reconstruction was also developed during the wars and the Vietnam War also caused clinical experience in this area to burgeon. The speciality has continued to develop and now plastic surgeons are trained to perform operations on many parts of the body for a whole spectrum of conditions. For example: hand surgery, including microsurgery to nerves and arteries (such as replanting amputated digits/body parts), tendon repairs, repair of bone and joint injuries and reconstruction of deformities; Skin cancer surgery, including lymph node dissections and reconstruction of defects in the body; Reconstructive surgery following tumour removal or for repair of congenital malformations, which often requires the use of complex flaps and microsurgery (moving parts of the body around); and cosmetic surgery.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and because Plastic Surgeons are adept at handling a variety of tissues such as bone, nerves, muscle and skin, there is some crossover between what Plastic Surgeons do and what other specialist surgeons do. (For example, Orthopaedic surgeons operate on bone, Neurosurgeons operate on nerves, and ENT surgeons operate on the nose and other parts of the head and neck). Even within the plastic surgery community some members have sub-specialised, and cross referral is not uncommon for more unusual conditions.