Myths and Facts of Plastic Surgery

People in today’s world are more health conscious and are aware of the different medical specialties. Despite the tremendous advancements in the field of Plastic surgery, there seems to be a limited knowledge among the general public and also among medical Professionals regarding the spectrum of plastic surgery. As a medical specialty, plastic surgery is poorly understood by both the general public and some medical professionals as well.

Plastic surgery is a unique specialty that defies definition, has no organ system of its own, and is based on principles rather than specific procedures.

Unlike other medical disciplines, plastic surgery is not defined by an anatomic area (Ophthalmology, ENT, thoracic surgery) or organ system (gastroenterology, urology,) or patient age group (pediatrics, adolescent medicine, geriatrics).

It deals with everything from head to toe; but is associated with the prefix Plastic which symbolizes nothing to the common man and medical community at large. We understand that the name of our specialty itself is not understood by many. Unlike other specialties, where the name itself indicates the work being done by that particular specialty, plastic surgery lags behind on this front. It is easy to understand that an Ophthalmologist deals with eyes, and Pediatrician deals with kids, but when it comes to Plastic surgery, we are at a loss. The word Plastic surgery is actually derived from the Greek word ‘Plastikos’ which means to mould.

When it comes to plastic surgery, the everybody believes that it is same as cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgeons are often portrayed in the media as glamorous beings who give people a new lease of life through a ‘nip and a tuck’. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) has produced the ISAPS Biennial Global Survey(TM) of plastic surgeons and procedures in the top 25 countries and regions. India ranks fourth in the list and emerging as a major centre of cosmetic surgery.

However, the reconstructive side of our work goes largely unreported. In India, it is not uncommon for us to encounter patients who after completion of all the procedures will ask when plastic surgery will be done and plastic will be used!

For all of us as plastic surgeons, plastic surgery is not just cosmetic and we need to educate and inform the public and non plastic surgical specialties as to what it is that plastic surgeons actually do.

There are many misconceptions regarding our specialty of Plastic surgery. Plastic surgery misconceptions pour from our television, movies, magazines and other sources. There is an overwhelming mass of information from uncertain sources, and shortage of facts, which frustrate the potential patients and make them have unrealistic expectations from Plastic surgery.

Myth 1: Plastic surgery is called plastic surgery because it involves use of Plastic.

Fact: The word plastic was derived from the Greek word 'Plastikos' which means 'To mould', which gave rise to the term Plastic surgery. Although silicone and other types of implants are used in Plastic surgery, it is the art of remodeling of the tissues which gave rise to this name-Plastic surgery.

Myth 2: There are no scar marks left after plastic surgery.

Fact: All plastic surgeries heal with scars. Plastic surgeons are trained for delicate tissue handling ,and making tissue incisions in strategic positions to minimize their visibility. Because of all this and use of fine sutures, the quality of scar is much better after Plastic surgical procedure is done. Proper post operative care of the scar further minimizes the scar to some extent. Every one heals differently because of genetic and personal health factors.

Myth 3: Plastic surgery and Cosmetic surgery are the same and Plastic surgery is meant only for improving looks.

Fact: Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic. Plastic surgery has got a very broad spectrum, and can be divided into further subspecialties like Hand surgery, Microsurgery, Craniomaxillofacial surgery, Pediatric plastic surgery and Cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgery is mostly involved with improvement of function first and then form and looks.

Myth 4: Plastic surgery is very expensive and meant only for rich and famous.

Fact: Most of the Plastic surgery procedures are affordable to the common people. The vast majority of people undergoing plastic surgery are the common people. It is probably because of the glamour associated with the term plastic surgery, that it is considered very expensive.

Myth 5: The entire face can be changed using plastic surgery.

Fact: This statement is NOT COMPLETELY a myth. Cadaveric (from dead bodies) face transplants have been done in some countries. However it needs prolonged immunosuppression, and long term results are yet to be evaluated. It will take a couple of decades before face transplantations will be regularly performed. As of now, improvement in certain aspects like hair, nose, eyes, chin can be made using Plastic surgery.

Myth 6: Plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures are very risky.

Fact: The risk involved in Plastic surgery is similar to risk involved in other surgeries.

Myth 7: Plastic surgery is possible at specialized centers and corporate hospitals only.

Fact: Plastic surgery is routinely being done across many institutes in India including ours., we perform all types of Plastic and reconstructive surgery procedures with good results.