What is Plastic Surgery?
When you hear the words “plastic surgeon,” you might call to mind actresses with outlandish body proportions or aging stars with surreal facial features. Plastic surgery to alter appearance is referred to as “aesthetic” or “cosmetic” surgery. As is the case with celebrities, cosmetic surgery is often performed to change the appearance of a feature that a patient has always disliked, or to prevent changes from happening due to aging. However, cosmetic surgery can also restore appearance after an injury or illness -- when a medical condition leaves a physical mark that makes a patient look different, it can be very upsetting. Cosmetic plastic surgery gives patients more control over how they look.
But plastic surgery is about much more than changing someone's appearance. Plastic surgery is also about changing the form and function of the body, and often that means restoring what has been lost to injury or illness. A body part can lose its ability to function (meaning, for example, to move, grip, protect underlying tissues, or feel sensation) to many causes. Some common ones are burns, infections, injuries (e.g. from car accidents), illnesses (such as cancer), problems present from birth (such as cleft palate), or even scar tissue from previous surgeries. When plastic surgery is used to repair a damaged part, it is called “reconstructive surgery.” Reconstructive procedures restore the abilities of the patient so that they can use their body in as normal and healthy a way as possible.
Plastic surgeons are experts at safely moving tissue from one part of the body to another, using microsurgery techniques to reconnect the tiny blood vessels and nerves. They use these skills not only to improve appearance (cosmetic surgery), but also to repair damaged body parts (reconstructive surgery).
What is Facial Plastic Surgery?
Facial plastic surgeons are physicians who provide surgical or medical treatment to change the appearance of the face, head, or neck. We communicate a great deal through tiny, natural movements of the face, so the work of a facial plastic surgeon requires an unusually high level of skill.
Facial plastic surgeons provide a number of treatment options, such as:
Cosmetic surgery, intended to enhance the appearance. These procedures are usually considered elective, although they can be psychologically very important to patients. Cosmetic procedures seek to increase physical beauty, and can include facelifts, liposuction, and nose jobs.
Reconstructive surgery, to correct the appearance. Often these procedures are considered medically necessary and treat patients who are experiencing negative effects due to an aspect of their appearance. Procedures that can be considered reconstructive may include the removal of birthmarks and scars, repairs after serious accidents, and the correction of problems such as cleft palate.
Medical treatments that do not involve surgery. This category of procedures includes Botox, wrinkle treatments, injectable fillers, or medical skin products.
Facial plastic surgeons may have trained as plastic surgeons first, but most physicians who specialize in facial plastic surgery actually begin as otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat doctors. A large part of the training that all otolaryngologists receive in medical school involves surgery on the face, and facial plastic surgery is considered the largest subspecialty of otolaryngology.
The field of facial plastic surgery is changing rapidly, with new advances in the past few years, such as laser therapy, minimally invasive surgery, and microsurgery. Facial plastic surgeons are able to use this knowledge to help you feel confident about the face you present to the world.
What is Hand Surgery?
Our hands are not only incredibly useful and important for our daily functioning, but they are complex and delicate parts of our body. It can take a specialist to keep the hands functioning at their best. Hand surgeons are general, plastic, or orthopedic surgeons who have received additional training specifically in the care of hands, wrists and forearms.
Surgery is not the only care that a hand surgeon provides. Hand surgeons might prescribe medications, physical therapy, or splints and braces as well as surgery, depending on the condition. They care for a wide variety of issues affecting the hand or forearm, which may include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Fingers that cannot be straightened, such as with Dupuytren’s contracture
Deformities of the fingers, such as syndactyly (webbed or fused fingers) or polydactyly (extra fingers)
Wrist or hand pain
Serious injuries of the hand or wrist, including burns and sports injuries
Reattachment of severed fingers or creation of prosthetics
We use our hands to interact with the world in a number of ways. In order to do so, we need our hands to maintain a high level of both movement and sensitivity, and that requires all of its bones, muscles, and nerves to be working properly. Hand surgeons keep this delicate and important equipment functioning.
Orthopedic surgeons, sometimes just called orthopedists, are surgical doctors of the musculoskeletal system. They work to keep your body active and in motion by treating problems with your bones, joints, tendons and muscles. The most frequently treated disorder seen by orthopedic surgeons is osteoarthritis, a common “wear-and-tear” problem where the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down, causing friction and pain. Orthopedic surgeons might also see patients for bone and joint deformities, amputation, infections of the bone and joint, overuse injuries, or nerve compression.
Orthopedic surgeons can order tests such as blood work and x-rays to get a clearer picture of the issue. Depending on the illness or injury, more than one different form of treatment may be used. Treatment may include:
Surgery, such as fusing bones together to increase stability, or replacing a joint
Medication, such as pain medication or steroids to promote healing
Casts, splints, or orthotics (devices such as braces or shoe inserts to support the body)
Physical therapy, a kind of treatment using exercise, stretching, heat, and massage to heal the body
Exercise, stretching, movement, and use of the affected part
Orthopedic surgeons also work to prevent injuries and slow the progression of disease in their patients. They educate patients on ways to prevent future injuries, and they treat illness in order to prevent further damage to bones or joints that may be affected by disease. The goal of an orthopedic surgeon is to help their patients restore movement and regain an active life.