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Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview

What is reconstructive plastic surgery?

Reconstructive plastic surgery is done to correct facial and body abnormalities caused by birth defects, injury, disease, or aging.

Usually, the goal of reconstructive plastic surgery is to improve body function. However, reconstructive plastic surgery may also be done to create a more normal appearance and improve self-esteem (this may also be called cosmetic surgery). Abnormal structures of the body may result from:

  • Injury

  • Infection

  • Developmental abnormalities

  • Congenital (present at birth) defects

  • Disease

  • Tumors

Who are candidates for reconstructive plastic surgery?

Generally, 2 types of people have reconstructive plastic surgery, including:

  • People with congenital defects (including cleft lip, craniofacial anomalies, or hand deformities)

  • People with deformities (including those due to an accident, infection, disease, or aging)

Possible complications associated with reconstructive plastic surgery

Any type of surgery carries some risk. People differ in their anatomy and their ability to heal. Depending on the type of surgery you have and your overall health, some complications and risks associated with reconstructive plastic surgery may include:

  • Infection

  • Excessive bleeding

  • Bruising

  • Difficulty in wound healing

  • Anesthesia problems

  • Surgery problems

Risk of complications may increase if you:

  • Smoke

  • Have connective-tissue damage

  • Have skin damage from radiation therapy

  • Have decreased circulation at the surgery site

  • Have HIV

  • Have an impaired immune system

  • Have poor nutritional habits

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How to prepare for reconstructive plastic surgery

The specific type of surgery will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Severity of the defect

  • Your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Location of the defect

  • Your opinion or preference

You may require multiple procedures done in several stages.

There are a number of areas in plastic surgery that may be either or both reconstructive or cosmetic, depending on your situation. For example, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) may be a procedure done for cosmetic improvement, as well as to correct eyelids that are drooping severely and obscuring vision.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Cunningham, Louise, RN
  • Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC