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.
Otolaryngologists are also called 'ENTs' because their area of specialty is the ears, nose, and throat. Otolaryngologists treat most of the diseases and disorders that affect the head or neck. They can provide routine medical care, such as giving hearing tests or treating chronic conditions such as allergies. Otolaryngologists also perform a number of surgeries on the head and neck. Some of the illnesses and issues that otolaryngologists treat include:
Ear problems - hearing loss, infections, tinnitus or ringing on the ears, balance disorders, trauma or fracture of the temporal bone, prominent or large ears (using 'ear pinning' plastic surgery)
Nose issues - sinus infections, allergies, nasal polyps, smell disorders
Throat issues - voice and swallowing problems, infections or trauma to the larynx or esophagus, sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea)
Head and neck problems - infections, trauma, tumors, conditions requiring plastic surgery
Because they perform so many delicate surgeries of the face, otolaryngologists are often sought out as plastic surgeons when facial surgery is required. Their specialized knowledge of the anatomy of the head and face can make a real difference in the outcome of a surgery, from a brow lift to a total facial reconstruction after trauma.