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Plastic Surgery Roots

29Jan
The term “plastic surgeon” was coined around 1795 by Pierre Desault and comes from the Greek word plastikos, meaning “able to be molded.”

Plastic Surgery Roots Reach Back to 3000 BC

A very interesting article was recently published by Board Certified plastic surgeon Dr. Julia MacRae of Newark, and one that I thought everyone would enjoy reading. One of the most common questions she mentioned she hears, as do all of us plastic surgeons, is, why do we call what we do, “plastic” surgery?

She goes on to say; many people guess that it has to do with the use of artificial implants used in our work. But it goes back much further than the invention of plastic, the petroleum-based material. The term “plastic surgeon” was coined around 1795 by Pierre Desault and comes from the Greek word plastikos, meaning “able to be molded.”

Plastic surgeons have been restoring form and function to the human body for millennia. There are ancient Egyptian papyrus texts dating back from 3000 BC describing the surgical treatment of a broken nose. The “father of plastic surgery” title could be attributed to a number of important figures in history, but one figure is often coined that title. In India, a physician named Sushruta described the surgical treatment of a wide variety of ailments, including reconstructive procedures, around 1000-800 BC. Nasal reconstruction was of particular interest since it was common practice to amputate noses of criminals and inhabitants of conquered cities.

In fact, even as late as 1790 the king of Ghorka had ordered a census taken of the captured city of Kirtipor (in Ceylon) by cutting off the noses and lips of all inhabitants and counting them. (Kirtipor was then renamed Naskkatapoor, meaning city of the severed noses.) Those original Sanskrit documents, translated into Arabic, made their way centuries later to Europe where Gaspare Tagliacozzi was inspired by the ancient writings to perform and advance reconstructive surgery. His treatise, covering his life’s work, became a cornerstone of modern plastic surgery.

Unfortunately, plastic surgery was still only for the very brave of heart, since anesthesia had not yet been invented. Procedures were excruciatingly painful (and as short as possible). In the 18th and 19th centuries, many plastic surgeons refined procedures to reconstruct wounds and deformities. The first recorded successful human skin graft was in 1817 by Sir Astley Cooper, to cover an amputated thumb stump. World War I (1914-1918) created a desperate need for reconstructive surgeons, with many soldiers returning from battle with gunshot wounds to the face in addition to other battle wounds.

By the end of the war, the specialty field of plastic surgery had been born, consisting of a combined general and dental surgery team. Plastic surgery in 1945 was treating complex fractures of the craniofacial skeleton and extremities, soft tissue defects, paraplegic pressure sores, frostbite, burns, repair of peripheral nerves and all types of hand problems.

Modern plastic surgery is a cooperative (and sometimes overlapping) specialty with many other surgical specialties such as orthopedics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, general surgery, and oral and maxillofacial surgery. Plastic surgeons treat burn victims with flaps and skin grafts. They reconstruct parts of the body lost or damaged by trauma or disease. They correct birth defects. And, of course, plastic surgeons are known for their cosmetic expertise which they apply to all procedures they perform.

I thought her article was interesting in sharing the history of where plastic surgery started and how it has evolved over the centuries. What we do as plastic surgeons goes way beyond the physical procedure itself. We may sculpt, rebuild and reconstruct, but we also restore, redefine and reimagine an individual’s self-esteem, well-being and hope for a more “whole” future.

If you are seeking more information on facial and body reconstruction and plastic surgery you should make an appointment with a board certified plastic surgeon like Dr Aguiar. At Aguiar Plastic Surgery, we offer state-of-the art, safe, and effective cosmetic procedures, plastic surgery, reconstructive surgery, and Med Spa services in Tampa, Florida. We can discuss your concerns and give you an honest consultation that is designed and tailored to create an appearance on the outside that will reflect how you feel on the inside.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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