Many people use the terms “cosmetic surgery” and “plastic surgery” interchangeably, but there is a difference between them. According to Dr. Ahmed Sufyan, our facial plastic surgery expert, cosmetic surgery is a form of plastic surgery but not all plastic surgery is cosmetic surgery.


Plastic surgery has little to do with plastics, though plastics are sometimes used. The term comes from the Greek word plastikē, which refers to something that can be modeled or shaped. A subspecialty, cosmetic surgery, is a plastic surgery that improves a person’s looks, whether of their body or their face. 


People have been practicing plastic surgery for a surprisingly long time. In ancient Rome, ex-slaves went to what were the plastic surgeons of the day to have brand marks inflicted by their former owners removed from their skin.


The first rhinoplasty was thought to have been performed in the 15th century in Germany. But plastic surgery or any kind of surgery was risky back in the day. Not only did people have no idea about germ theory and what caused infection after a surgical procedure, but the Church found plastic surgery to be against the will of God. If there was any anesthesia at all, it was unreliable.


Some types of cosmetic surgery also improve the functioning of a person’s body as well. Indeed, the plastic surgery performed on soldiers returning from World War I not only helped correct traumatic facial injuries that made it difficult for them to be seen in society but improved their ability to eat, speak and breathe.


Another thing that differentiates plastic surgery from cosmetic surgery is that cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by health insurance. The patient needs to pay out of pocket or set up a financial arrangement with their plastic surgeon. Reconstructive plastic surgery is more likely to be covered by regular health insurance.


Cosmetic Surgeries That Affect Physical Health


Nose surgery or rhinoplasty famously improves the look of a patient’s nose and can help them to breathe better. A surprising number of patients who want to get rid of the bump on their nose or who want their nose shortened or lengthened have problems with their septum or their turbinates. The septum is the cartilage wall between the nostrils and turbinates humidify and warm the air the person breathes in. 


A lot of times the patient doesn’t even know there’s something wrong with these structures because their abnormal breathing is simply the way they’ve always breathed. When our plastic surgeon discovers such a patient, they correct the problems with the septum and resculpt the nose during the same operation. In that way, the patient gets the nose they want and is able to enjoy normal breathing.


Another otherwise cosmetic surgery that has an impact on a person’s physical well-being is breast reduction. In breast reduction, the surgeon removes unwanted tissue and skin from the breasts the patient feels are too large. Breast size not only makes one self-conscious, makes it difficult to find clothes that fit, but can also cause neck, shoulder and back pain, sometimes even affect the spine. Breast reduction surgery not only makes the woman’s body more attractive but relieves the health problems caused by breasts that are too large and heavy.


Reconstructive Plastic Surgery


Though reconstructive surgery also improves the patient’s looks, its main focus is to repair some kind of a deficit, whether it was acquired at birth or through surgery or injury. The problem does not have to be life-threatening but is such that the person feels they couldn’t really participate in society the way they should or the way they’d like to if the problem is left uncorrected. Some of these surgeries also improve function.


Cleft Palate Surgery


One popular reconstructive plastic surgery is surgery to repair a cleft palate. A cleft palate is a congenital condition where there’s a split at the top of the mouth or the palate that can extend to the upper lip. This can interfere with a baby’s ability to feed properly and later with their ability to speak properly if it’s not corrected. Fortunately, a cleft palate is easy to repair for a trained plastic surgeon.


Breast Reconstructive Surgery


Another popular type of reconstructive plastic surgery is breast reconstruction. This type of surgery is sought by women who have had a mastectomy or other trauma to their breast. Breast reconstruction can resemble breast augmentation when the woman receives an implant. 


Breast reconstructive surgery is often more involved than a breast augmentation because the woman usually needs to wear a tissue expander for four to six months. Because radiation and surgery can cause the loss of skin, a tissue expander is needed to stretch the skin to allow for the placement of the breast implant. The new breast can also be reconstructed using the patient’s own fat, skin, and muscle from another part of her body.


When the breast is reconstructed using the patient’s own tissue, the doctor can use different flap techniques. This is where the tissue is tunneled up through the chest wall without being cut off from its blood supply.


Whether a patient seeks cosmetic or reconstructive plastic surgery, they should know that the techniques are improving constantly. These techniques reduce risk, pain and recovery time while bringing the form and function that satisfies both patient and surgeon. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Dr. Sufyan, Michigan’s top facial plastic surgeon for more information.