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Cosmetic, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Written by Pallavi Chowdhry on

We often hear about these surgical procedures through the media, especially in regards to celebrities. Most people generally think of cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery being the same exact thing. There is a lot of further confusion on the subject of reconstructive surgery, which is more commonly associated with more serious medical needs. A little bit of exploration into the subject matter, however, reveals pertinent information. Namely, not a single one of these procedures falls into precisely identical categories, and each term has its own proper, relevant application and usage.

Plastic Surgery

Contrary to popular belief, the term ‘plastic surgery’ is not synonymous with the term ‘cosmetic surgery’. Plastic surgery is actually a much broader and more expansive type of procedure. It is a surgical specialty that is directly associated with rectifying problems and/or restoring appearance and use of a body part or feature. Cosmetic surgery does fit underneath this umbrella term, but not all plastic surgery is cosmetic. In fact, some forms of reconstructive surgery are considered plastic surgery. Skin grafts, for instance, are actually examples of plastic surgeries. To restate, plastic surgery is not done for aesthetic purposes, but still modifies or corrects existing issues to improve the form and function of the bodily structure.

3D Medical Illustration - Plastic Surgery

3D Medical Animation Still - Plastic Surgery

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is the most commonly known form of plastic surgery. It fits perfectly within the definition of plastic surgery, as described above, but a cosmetic surgery is done electively to improve the appearance of an individual. Common examples of cosmetic surgical procedures include breast augmentation, breast enlargement, rhinoplasty to change the appearance of the nose, and eyelid reduction. Some cosmetic surgeries and/or procedures are specifically directed toward reducing the apparent age of a person, such as what’s called the chemical peel and injections of ‘fillers’ like collagen.

3D Medical Illustration - Cosmetic Surgery

3D Medical Animation Still - Cosmetic Surgery

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgeries fall under different parameters still. Most often, reconstructive procedures take place after some form of medical emergency or tragedy has taken place. For example, certain birth defects, including the cleft lip, require reconstructive surgery in order to correct the cleft and make the mouth properly functional. Another example would be breast reconstructive surgery for women who have had their breasts removed due to life-threatening cancer. Also applicable are instances in which people have been seriously injured in car accidents or have been severely burned. Unlike a cosmetic procedure, a reconstructive surgery is generally covered by medical and health insurance plans as necessary for the health and well-being of the individual.

3D Medical Illustration - Breast Reconstruction Surgery

3D Medical Animation Still - Breast Reconstruction Surgery

These surgical practices overlap in some areas, but have deserved distinction both in practice and discussion. Not every plastic surgery is a purely cosmetic procedure, and reconstructive surgeries fit somewhat within plastic surgical definition, but can also be performed to provide a normal appearance. Although they are interconnected, the reasons for undertaking them are different, and healthcare professionals that conduct them handle them differently. These three distinguished forms of surgical practice all have their own place in the field of medicine.

Learn more about these surgery types by watching our 3D Medical Animation on Reconstructive Surgery and Stem Cells Harvesting.

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