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Reconstructive Surgery: Past, Present & Future

Updated on May 15, 2015

The Origins

Cosmetic and reconstructive surgery isn’t merely about feeding our vanity. It does much more than just give self esteem a boost. Little wonder then that this type of procedure has had a very long history. In fact, written records of reconstructive procedure date as far back as 1600 BCE, with papyri describing methods to repair a broken nose and ways to suture so that scarring is minimal, says the Science Museum, London. There also is evidence of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian, undergoing rhinoplasty in 7000 BCE, along with a variety of plastic surgical techniques described by an Indian practitioner, Susruta, in 500 BCE.

The Present

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 5,734,120 procedures were conducted in 2013, in the United States alone. Of these, maxillofacial reconstruction came in third among the top five reconstructive surgical procedures, with 199,000 procedures being conduction in 2013. Scar revision followed close behind, with 177,000 procedures. Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually performed currently to correct bodily and facial abnormalities, which might have been caused by disease, trauma, birth defects or even aging. The goal is typically to heal, repair and improve body functions, although the procedure can also be performed to create a more normal appearance, says Dr. Joseph A. Racanelli, a Board Certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in New York.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the most suitable candidates for such procedures are people with congenital abnormalities, such as cleft lip, hand deformity or craniofacial anomalies, and people with developmental deformities, such as those caused by disease, infection, accident and aging.

The Future

Most research suggests that the demand for reconstructive surgery will only grow in future. According to an article published in March 2014 in the journal, Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, “aesthetic procedures are expected to grow from 1,688,694 in 2012 to 3,847,929 by 2030.” The age distribution of the patient population is also expected to change, as is the ethnic profile, with “32 percent of all procedures being performed on patients other than Caucasians by 2030.” The most commonly opted for procedures are expected to be breast augmentations, lipoplasties and blepharoplasties, the article said.

In addition, with the availability of polymer biomaterials and an expansion in their applications, there will be many more options for both surgeons and patients and reconstructive procedures could well include soft tissue fillers, acellular dermal matrices, bioengineered skin and even peripheral nerve repair, according to a study published in the journal of Clinical Plastic Surgery in 2012. Needless to mention, research on techniques to make the procedure more and more non-invasive is ongoing. Laser surgery has already gained popularity and will only continue to find newer applications.

Protecting the Future of Plastic Surgery


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