The name ‘plastic surgery’ comes from the Greek word ‘plastic’, which means to ‘mold or reshape’. Thus, plastic surgery refers to molding and reshaping of a part of the patient’s body through surgery. The surgeon uses the patient’s own tissues, including tissues from another location of the body. He may also reshape the existing tissues to give a better look. These days even hard silicone rubber is used as a popular graft for remodeling.

Reconstructive Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery

Plastic surgery encompasses both reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery is done for a medical cause, whether it is a birth defect such as a cleft lip or fusion of toes or fingers or an acquired disfigurement due to burns, trauma, or diseases etc. Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, is a personal choice done to enhance the physical appearance and the self-esteem of the client. Examples of cosmetic surgery include breast augmentation, liposuction, and facelifts.

Plastic surgery can be done for cosmetic purposes on almost every part of the face, breasts, and abdomen. Scar revisions and liposuction can be done on almost any part of the body.

Plastic surgeries usually take 2 to 3 hours to complete. Depending on the procedure performed, the patient may be able to return to normal activity immediately or may need a typical recovery period of around one to two weeks.


Usually, the patient may experience only a slight discomfort. However, as with any other surgery, there are the risks of bleeding, infection, and impaired healing of the incision wound. Some of the procedures may have certain specific complications. For example, there may a leakage within an artificial breast implant following a breast augmentation surgery.

Common Surgeries

The most popular cosmetic surgeries are breast augmentation surgery, nose jobs, and facelift and eyelid surgery. Though most patients undergoing cosmetic surgeries are females, in recent years many men are also going under the knife to enhance their appearance.

Plastic surgery can be done to treat congenital anomalies such as a cleft lip or palate, joined or extra fingers or toes, abnormal positioning of the opening of the male urethra and for abnormalities of the ear or jaws.

It can help in the treatment of a facial fracture, including those of the jaw, nose etc. Plastic surgery also helps in treatment of nerve or tendon injuries. It can be a great help to correct skin loss due to trauma or infection. It provides hope to people with amputated or cut body parts. Re-implantation of such parts is possible because of plastic surgery.

Burns can lead to contracture of the hand, neck, axilla (armpit), elbow, foot etc. Plastic surgery helps to treat such conditions.

Sometimes reconstructive surgery is done to treat non-healing wounds or ulcers due to injury, diabetes, or burns.

Many people choose cosmetic surgery to correct facial or eyelid wrinkles, and scars from burns, trauma or infections etc. Liposuction, tummy tucks, nose-jobs, breast implants or reductions are some of the other popular types of cosmetic surgery.

Plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgeries have an important psychological component that needs to be addressed along with the physical need for such surgeries.

Medical Insurance

In the US, insurance providers do not provide cover for most cosmetic surgeries, as they are only a personal choice and not a physical requirement. However, insurance may cover reconstructive surgeries, which are prescribed by a surgeon to improve bodily function or to give the patient a near normal appearance.

Author's Bio: 

Certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Roy Semlacher, specializes in facelift, breast implants and cosmetic plastic surgery.