Plastic surgery has two main components: reconstructive plastic surgery which is all about restoring function and appearance to the human body after illness or accident and aesthetic (often called “cosmetic”) plastic surgery, which is primarily to change the appearance from choice. Unlike most surgical specialties that are defined by an anatomical area, plastic surgery is defined by the surgical techniques that are carried out.
Reconstructive procedures are the mainstay of nearly all plastic surgeons’ work: covering all aspects of wound healing and reconstruction after congenital, acquired and traumatic problems, with aesthetic surgery playing a smaller but important part in their working week.
Plastic surgeons perform reconstructive plastic surgery which restores form and function following illness or trauma. They also perform aesthetic or ‘cosmetic’ surgery which changes appearance or form.
Nature of the work
The work encompasses a wide range of conditions in different parts of the body. Plastic surgeons may work with both children and adults.
Reconstructive surgery includes:
- Breast reconstruction (including after cancer)
- Skin and soft tissue cancer procedures
- Head and neck reconstruction
- Treatment for cleft lip and palate
- Burns and trauma surgery trauma includes road traffic accidents, sporting injury and violent incidents
- Hand operations
Aesthetic surgery includes:
- Breast augmentation and reduction
- Otoplasty – surgery to treat protruding ears
- Eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty)
- Liposuction – to remove unwanted fat
Plastic surgeons use innovative surgical procedures and techniques including:
- Microsurgery – magnification and tiny sutures are used to join very small arteries, veins and nerves to restore the blood or nerve supply to a piece of living tissue
- Skin grafts – a healthy piece of skin is transferred to another area of the body where the skin is missing or damaged
- Tissue expansion – this procedure allows the body to ‘grow’ extra skin by stretching surrounding tissue
- Flap surgery – the transfer of a living piece of tissue from one area of the body to another, along with its blood vessel
Sub-specialties within plastic surgery including:
- Paediatric plastic surgery
- Hand surgery
- Congenital –conditions treated include cleft lip and palate, facial and ear deformities, craniofacial defects, genito-urinary anomalies, upper limb anomalies and skin conditions
- Breast surgery – reconstruction after cancer, congenital anomalies and cosmetic surgery
- Skin – includes excision and reconstruction, management of skin cancer metastases (the spread of cancer from one part of the body to the other)
- Trauma – repair of facial trauma and lower limb trauma
- Cancer – including removal of malignant tumours and skin lesions, head and neck cancer and breast reconstruction
hand and upper limb surgery – including congenital hand abnormalities, hand injuries and treatment of degenerative hand disease