Plastic surgery is surgical procedure which specializes in the reconstruction and repair of damaged skin and tissue. Tissue damage can be caused by injury, surgery or any birth abnormality. The main goal of plastic surgery is to restore the shape and function of damaged skin, making it look more normal. Another use of plastic surgery, through a secondary aim is to improve the appearance of any of your body parts.
A person who performs plastic surgery is referred to as a plastic surgeon. The course and training for a plastic surgeon starts after 5 years of a medicine undergraduate course. After completion of plastic surgery training, the trainee should register with the medical council of plastic surgeons. This depends on one's country or location.
When is Plastic Surgery Used?
Plastic surgery is mostly used in the cosmetic and reconstructive fields. Below is a detailed explanation of the two fields.
In the reconstructive field, plastic surgery is used in:
- Performing hand surgery
- Palate and cleft lip surgery
- Reconstruction of burns and post burns
- Pediatric cranial surgery
- Adult cranial surgery
- Patients reconstruction for trauma of the limbs, head and neck
- Patients reconstruction for benign deformities of the trunk and face
- Microsurgery for reconstructive purposes
- Laser treatment and surgery of malignant and benign tumors of the neck and skin
Aesthetic or Cosmetic Purposes
- Facelift surgery
- Cosmetic surgery of the ear
- Cosmetic surgery of the breast
- Cosmetic surgery of the eyelid
- Reconstruction of the face by use of light therapies and lasers
- Rejuvenation of the face with injectable fillers and Botox
- Shaping and lifting procedures
- Liposuction of deformed body parts
How is Plastic Surgery Performed?
There are different procedures and techniques which used in reconstructive and aesthetic plastic surgery. The procedures are as discussed below:
This is a surgical procedure which is performed with use of an endoscope. An endoscope is tubular probe machine with a small camera and a bright light which is put into a small skin incision. The endoscope takes images which are transmitted to a screen, which the surgeon uses to help manipulate the endoscope in the body. This machine helps in directing the surgeon in his or her surgical procedure. Other instruments used in plastic surgery are inserted through different incisions, but are all monitored by the endoscope.
This is a surgical procedure that involves the transportation of healthy live cells and tissues from one body part to the other. The tissues and cells are transported with their blood vessels to keep them alive. This surgery targets areas that have lost fat, skin, skeletal support and muscle movements. Flap plastic surgery is grouped into different surgery methods based on the location of the flap and the structures being repaired. These methods include:
- Regional Flap: This method uses a part of tissue attached to a certain blood vessel.
- Local Flap: This is a flap surgery performed on a wound or next to a wound. The skin is left attached to one end for a proper blood supply.
- Bone or Soft Tissue Flap: This method is used when transporting a bone and its overlying tissue.
- Micro-vascular Flap: This process involves cutting and transplanting skin and its blood vessels. It involves detaching followed by reattachment of skin and blood vessels.
- Musculocutaneous Flap: It is also called a muscle and skin flap. This procedure is used to increase blood supply in an area which needs more or a bulk blood supply. It can be used to restore a breast's nature and function after a mastectomy.
Lasers are machines used in plastic surgery to minimize bleeding, scarring and bruising. Different types of lasers can be used in laser technology, but this depends on the location where the surgery is performed and the purpose of the surgery. Before plastic surgery is performed, you need to first consult your plastic surgeon to know if laser surgery is appropriate for you and the best suited laser type to be used on you.
This is surgical procedure which encourages your body to grow an extra layer of skin by simply stretching the surrounding tissue. The extra skin is the one used to reconstruct the surrounding area. Good examples of tissue expansion application are the repair of large wounds and breast reconstruction.
The tissue expansion procedure involves inserting a balloon-like machine - named an expander - under the skin which is being repaired. The expander is then filled with salty water, which after time causes the skin expand, grow and gradually stretch. The operation's procedure involving insertion of an expander is usually carried out under a local anesthesia. The time the procedure takes depends on size of the repaired area. The procedure may take 3 to 4 months for a skin to grow back well enough. Once your skin has expanded enough, a second operation is performed to help reposition the new tissue and remove the expander.
This plastic surgery operation ensures that the newly formed skin is similar in color, texture and shape to the neighboring area. The chances of failure with tissue expansion are minimal.
Skin grafting is a surgical procedure which involves removing healthy skin from an unaffected area and transferring it to cover damaged or lost skin. The area of the body where the healthy skin is removed from is called a donor site. There exist 3 different types of skin grafts which are done depending on the location and skin size needed. They are:
- Full thickness skin graft: It involves removal of all the three layers of the skin and replacing it with other three layers of healthy skin. It is commonly used in treatment of scars, deep or large wounds. The donor site is chosen based on the skin's pigmentation, type and size.
- Split or partial thickness skin graft: In this type of graft, the epidermis and only a smaller part of the dermis is removed. The area is then left to heal without stitches. The skin for this type of graft can be taken from the upper arm, buttock and thigh.
- Composite skin graft: This surgical procedure involves removal of all the layers of the skin, the subcutaneous layer and even the underlying cartilage from the donor site. This type of graft is aimed to give the area under repair a concrete underlying support.
Complications of Plastic Surgery
Just like any other type of surgery, plastic surgery is accompanied by some complications. The degree of complication depends on whether the area of surgery is small or large. The complications may also depend on a person's overall body health and the plastic surgeon's level of experience.
Some of the complications you are likely to experience with plastic surgery include:
- Implant failure: If an implant is used during plastic surgery; there are chances that it can change shape or leak. With such complications, further surgery is needed to replace the default.
- Bleeding: Severe bleeding can occur. It can at times require a blood transfusion.
- Scars: You are likely to have scars where the incisions were made. These scars will fade with time.
- Pain: You are likely to experience pain and discomfort after the surgery. Painkillers can be helpful for the first few days after surgery.
- Infection: Infection can occur, which may require further surgery or antibiotics
- Flap or graft failure: In case the blood supply is restricted, a graft or flap may die. Further surgery is needed for this.
The Bottom Line
Plastic surgery is a procedure which can be very important in the collection of skin congenital deformities or acquired deformities. Plastic surgery can help improve one’s life style, self-esteem, confidence and quality of life. One should always be aware of the risks and complications that may accompany plastic surgery!