Go Back in Time
You’re considering having facial plastic surgery. At first, you were just thinking about your own face, which procedure(s) would help you get it closer to your ideal, and how you would pay for it. But as you dig in, you might get interested in how facial plastic surgery got started and how it’s changed over time. Why not take a few minutes to learn a little history? You might teach your friends something — and maybe even your surgeon!
How Facial Plastic Surgery Got Started
Most people assume that facial plastic surgery must be a recent phenomenon. After all, how long have we had anesthetic? Or sharp metal scalpels? Or even electric lights? But while all of these things are absolutely crucial to modern facial plastic surgery, humans find the appearance of the face so important that they’ve been practicing facial plastic surgery since ancient times.
The Nose First
It appears that humans have considered the nose the aesthetic center of the face for millennia, because they’ve been trying to change its appearance for at least that long. The earliest known plastic surgeries were rhinoplasties. An ancient Egyptian medical papyrus describes techniques for the plastic surgical repair of a broken nose. Ancient Indian texts, written by the physician Sushruta, also described rhinoplasty techniques.
Although it took centuries, translations of the work of Sushruta made their way from India to Italy, and into the hands of Gaspare Tagliacozzi, the Italian physician who would write the first textbook of plastic surgery during his lifetime. News spread across Europe, and British physicians traveled to India to watch the rhinoplasty technique being performed. They later began to copy and then modify it. Textbooks specifically on rhinoplasty were published in 1818 and in 1845. The first intranasal rhinoplasty (where the scars are hidden within the nose itself) was performed in 1887. While techniques have advanced through the decades, rhinoplasty is still by far the most common facial plastic surgery performed, and is second only to breast augmentation as the most common plastic surgery overall.
While early modern facial plastic surgeons spent a lot of their effort on the nose, it was not the only feature they corrected surgically. The first surgical correction of protruding ears occurred in 1881; this procedure was done on one ear at a time, while another procedure was done on both ears at once in 1896. While not the most common facial plastic surgery, ear surgeries such as this procedure are still performed on over 20,000 people per year.
The techniques of surgery tend to see more rapid advancement during wars, when injuries are more common. Facial plastic surgery made huge leaps during World War I. Burn injuries to the face and hands were common during this war, and could lead to severe disfigurement. Skin grafting developed rapidly during this period, and is still used during reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. World War II saw more rapid advancement, with nine plastic surgery centers being created to manage the large number of wounded men coming off the battlefields. Many of the techniques still in use in facial plastic surgery today were created “on the fly” by surgeons in a time of great need. While we now have the luxury of time to think, research, and plan, plastic surgery owes much to these brave surgeons who had to act swiftly.
Some early facial plastic surgeons were trained as general surgeons, while others were trained as otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists, who are also trained in head and neck surgery) – and the two types of doctors didn’t necessarily like each other. Sometimes, the general surgeons would cover their work when an otolaryngologist walked in the operating room, to avoid giving away their secrets! So when the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) was founded by people who had originally been trained in otolaryngology, the American Board of Plastic Surgeons initially retaliated in a public service campaign urging patients to seek only board-certified plastic surgeons – not otolaryngologists – for their facial procedures. The turf war is not nearly so dramatic today, but debate sometimes continues about who is best qualified to perform certain types of procedures.
Today, You Have Many Options
Surgeons have spent centuries developing facial plastic surgery, creating newer and better procedures using techniques from other areas of surgery. Today, you have a variety of options if you want to improve the appearance of your face. So if you’re frustrated because you’re trying change something about your face and nothing is working, learn about your facial plastic surgical options!