In an age where getting older is to be avoided at all cost plastic surgery has become the answer for many people. Face-lifts and tummy tucks are all highly recognizable words. In a world of botox and rhinoplasty as common occurrences, we tend to look at these and other procedures of plastic surgery as a modern western achievement. However, plastic surgery has been around for over four thousand years in various forms and civilizations. In fact, the dimensions of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti still provide the model for many plastic surgeons today. The initial spread of the practice moved at a snail’s pace for thousands of years. Here we will discuss the beginnings of plastic surgery, starting with the earliest known procedures.
The first time plastic surgery was performed, it was without the aid of anesthesia or antibiotics. One can imagine that there was great pain and a high risk of infection in the early years of plastic surgery. Around 800 BC practitioners in India were performing skin grafts and rhinoplasty, better known as a nose job. In ancient India, the nose was a symbol of pride and as such was a common target during combat. This led this ancient people to practice ways of reshaping injured noses long before movie stars became our inspiration. The practice included shaping a piece of wax over the area of the nose needing replaced and grafting skin from another area of the body over it. Amazingly, the procedure was reported to be highly successful. Over the year’s writings on these procedures would filter through the world to the Greeks and then the Romans, giving rise to more study and improved techniques until the Pope Innocent III abolished the practice when he declared all surgeries prohibited by church law.
For decades few advances were made in plastic surgery as the religious tyranny held fast. The pursuit of medical science was replaced by spiritual quests. This may in fact have been a good thing as hygiene was not standardized at this point and the rate of infection was very high. As time moved on the need for plastic surgery again rose as a needed entity. In the early 20th century casualties of war needed extensive reconstruction of their faces due to extensive damage done by advanced weaponry. It was the First World War that brought plastic surgery into the medical arena once more.
The amount of young solider who had suffered horrific disfigurement was unprecedented. Never before had surgeons dealt with men who were missing large parts of their faces, noses were blown off and chins totally annihilated. Doctors all over Europe devoted their lives to restoring their compatriot’s countenance. After the war, two European surgeons would immigrate to the United States and bring their craft with them, becoming the founding fathers of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The United States was lagging behind in the plastic surgery after World War I due to an inability to share knowledge and new procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons was developed to fill that void. It was not long until the United States would meet and surpass the rest of the world in the field of plastic surgery. And amid this expansion, it would be the plastic surgery Chicago specialists practiced that would led the revolution.
Author: Herbert ReichThis author has published 2 articles so far.