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 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.
What is Wound Care?
Wound care is the medical specialty devoted to the treatment of difficult wounds that are not healing as they should. Open sores are painful and may be embarrassing for patients. More importantly, wounds that don’t heal may get deeper over time, and they are prone to infection. Without appropriate treatment, an open wound can lead to hospitalization, amputation, sepsis, or even death.
Wound care specialists have a number of treatment options available to help a stubborn wound heal. These may include:
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which increases the amount of oxygen you breathe in to stimulate healing
Debridement, or the removal of dead tissue
Specialty dressings, such as those containing silver or those that redirect weight off the wound
There are many risk factors for non-healing or chronic wounds, but the most common one is diabetes. Although diabetic foot ulcers are the most common wounds seen by wound care specialists, they may also treat other types of chronic or difficult wounds, including complications after surgery, infection wounds such as gangrene, or radiation wounds.
The wound care team may contain doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and medical techs. Their services are most often provided in hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, and nursing homes. As our population both ages and becomes more likely to struggle with obesity and diabetes, wound care is a growing and important specialty for preventing amputations and infections.
What is Neurosurgery?
Neurosurgery is the highly skilled specialty devoted to the surgical treatment of issues affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It is similar to the specialty of neurology, which also treats disorders of the nervous system. Even though there is some overlap, neurosurgery focuses on the surgical treatment of nervous system disorders. However, not every neurosurgery job means surgery -- neurosurgeons may also provide a diagnosis, interpret imaging and test results, or provide non-surgical treatment, depending on the nature of the illness.
Neurosurgeons treat nervous system disorders such as:
Traumatic brain injuries
Brain or spine tumors
Blood clots in the brain
Aneurysms or stroke
Spinal cord injuries
Carpal or cubital tunnel syndromes
Repair of severed nerves
Infections of the brain or spinal fluid
Because the nervous system is both so delicate and so complex, neurosurgery has one of the most rigorous and competitive medical education programs. After college and medical school, it is common for a neurosurgeon to require 7-10 additional years of intense training.
New discoveries in this field allow neurosurgeons to heal and accomplish more than ever before, and they are now able to treat many injuries and illnesses that were once fatal.
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