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Plastic and reconstructive surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the restoration and correction of bodily form or function. The specialty has two main areas: reconstructive surgery and aesthetic (or cosmetic) surgery.
Reconstructive surgery is performed primarily to correct structural and/or functional abnormalities or impairments in various body areas, although the restoration of normal appearance is often an additional benefit. These impairments may be caused by burns, trauma, congenital or developmental defects, infection, or cancer. Common reconstructive procedures include surgeries to correct congenital facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate (birth defects that occur when a child's lip or mouth do not form properly). These children often have problems eating and talking and are also prone to ear infections, hearing loss and dental problems. Surgery to repair a cleft palate can improve breathing, hearing and speech, and also dramatically change the appearance of a child's face.
Other procedures in this category include reconstruction of the breast after mastectomy, reconstruction of the face after removal of a cancerous tumor in the head or neck, and repair of cuts and lacerations to reverse a functional deficit or remove a disfiguring scar. Specialized hand surgery is used to treat such disorders as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritic deformities, and injuries to small bones and tendons. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons developed the use of microsurgery to transfer tissue to an area that has no local tissue. Pieces of tissue (skin, muscle, bone or fat) may be removed from one site in the body, moved to another site, and then reconnected to a blood supply by suturing arteries and veins.
Cosmetic surgery consists of procedures that revise or reshape parts of the body in order to change a person's appearance in the absence of any preceding trauma, burn, infection, tumor, etc. Considerations of normal vs. abnormal don't technically apply here, since it is the person's perception of his/her appearance that matters, along with what he or she believes might improve it; however, some people may consult with a plastic surgeon in response to significant distress about not looking the way they want or the way they feel conforms to some cultural definition of "normal" or desirable. Common cosmetic procedures include body shaping and contouring, hair replacement for men and women, liposuction to remove fat deposits, reshaping of the nose, and breast augmentation or reduction. Removal of tattoos has become a common cosmetic procedure.
Breast augmentation is a minimally invasive procedure performed to enhance the appearance, size and contour of a woman's breasts. Women may desire augmentation to enlarge small breasts, to restore breast shape after pregnancy, or to correct an asymmetry in breast size. Breast augmentation is performed with implants consisting of a silicone shell filled with a salt-water solution or silicone gel. Breast reduction surgery is most often performed in women who experience neck pain, back pain, numbness or weakness because of having large, heavy breasts. During this procedure, excess skin, fat and breast tissue are removed.
Liposuction and body trimming are common cosmetic surgeries. A full abdominoplasty or "tummy tuck" is an invasive procedure sometimes performed in those who have hanging abdominal skin (usually the result of massive weight loss), loose abdominal muscles, or neglected hernias. This surgical procedure removes excess fat, tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall, and trims the waistline.
For more information about plastic and reconstructive surgeons on the Medical Staff at The Chester County Hospital and Health System, call our Physician Referral Service at610.738.2300 or visit the Find a Doctor section of our website.
Last Updated: 8/7/2013