Overview of Plastic Surgery
What is plastic surgery?
It's a common misunderstanding that the word plastic in plastic surgery means artificial.
The word comes from the ancient Greek word plastikos, which means to mold or give
form. Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty involved with both the improvement in
a person's appearance and the reconstruction of facial and body tissue defects caused
by illness, trauma, or birth disorders.
Plastic surgery restores and improves function, as well as appearance. It can involve
surgery on any part of the anatomy, except the central nervous system, including:
Skin, including skin cancer, scars, burns, birthmarks, and tattoo removal
Maxillofacial (the facial skeleton)
Congenital anomalies, including deformed ears, cleft palate, and cleft lip
Doctors who do plastic surgery
It's important to select a doctor who is certified in plastic surgery by the American
Board of Plastic Surgery. Generally, a surgeon who is board-certified in plastic surgery
has graduated from an accredited medical school and has completed at least 5 years
of graduate medical education. This usually includes 3 years of general surgery and 2
years of plastic surgery. In addition, the surgeon must practice plastic surgery for
2 years and pass comprehensive written and oral exams to become board-certified. Board
certification is renewed every 10 years to ensure ongoing competency in the specialty.
What does plastic surgery include?
Plastic surgery includes both reconstructive and aesthetic (cosmetic) procedures:
Reconstructive plastic surgery
In general, reconstructive surgery is done on abnormal structures of the body that
may be caused by:
This type of surgery is usually done to improve function, but may also be done to
Cosmetic (aesthetic) plastic surgery
Cosmetic surgery is done to repair or reshape otherwise normal structures of the body,
generally, to improve appearance.