Go Back in Time
You’re considering having cosmetic surgery. At first, you were just thinking about your own body, which procedure(s) would help you bring it closer to your ideal, and how you would pay for it. But as you dig in, you might get interested in how 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!
When Did Plastic Surgery Get Started?
Many people believe that plastic surgery is a new phenomenon, around only for the past few decades. However, experts have found evidence that plastic surgery was done in ancient times. Ancient people in Peru, Egypt, India, and China appear to have practiced various forms of plastic surgery to change the look of the skull, reshape the nose, repair damaged noses and ears, and repair cleft lips and palates.
In modern history, the first textbook of plastic surgery was actually written in the 1500s. It included techniques for reshaping the nose. The first plastic surgery training program in the U.S. was established in 1924 — nearly 100 years ago. The American Board of Plastic Surgery was established in 1937, and the specialty’s first journal began publication in 1946. So plastic surgery is older than most people believe.
The term plastic surgery originated well before the modern material known as plastic was created. The meaning of the word plastic, in both cases, is “moldable or changable.” Plastic surgery attempts to alter the body’s tissues, while plastic materials are molded to a particular shape to serve their function. The term plastic surgery has nothing to do with plastic materials being placed inside the body, although this is sometimes part of certain procedures.
Have you noticed all those low-cut bodices in Victorian-era clothing? Women in the late 1800s were concerned about filling them out, and sought to use the techniques of the rapidly-developing field of medicine to help them do so. The rapid development of anesthesia in the mid-1800s made the possibility of cosmetic surgery much more attractive. The first breast augmentation was performed in 1895, using tissue transplanted from the patient’s back. It didn’t take long for people to start experimenting with implanting substances into the breasts to enlarge them. Injections of paraffin, beeswax, and vegetable oil were used. The first silicone breast implant was used in 1962, and saline implants were later introduced.
While there was interest in rhinoplasty even in ancient times, and attempts by physicians in the mid-1800s to reconstruct and reshape noses, the origins of modern facial surgery are usually traced to World War I. During this war, many thousands of men were wounded in battle, and there were large-scale attempts to repair the various types of wounds. Skin grafting was among the techniques that advanced dramatically during this period. During World War II, the U.S. military created specialized plastic surgery centers to deal with the facial wounds caused in battle, both by ammunitions and by chemical warfare. In the 1950s and 1960s, new surgical techniques were developed to treat cleft lip and palate, a condition which can devastate those born with it.
While these techniques began their use in reconstructive facial surgery, the same techniques could also be adapted to be useful in cosmetic facial surgery. In the 1970s, there were widespread attempts by surgeons to do this, leading to many advances.
Today, You Have Many Options
Human beings have sought to improve their appearance for centuries, and plastic surgeons have been working to develop effective, safe techniques to change the appearance of the body. Today, you have a huge variety of options. Technology has allowed for operating techniques that produce better results, and implants for a variety of parts of the body that are safer and more natural-appearing. So if you’re considering cosmetic surgery, you’ve come at the right time!