Family Health: Plastic Surgery can Repair or Enhance

When you hear the term “plastic surgery,” you may think of an actor with a new body shape or a gray-haired CEO with a youthful face. If so, you’re not wrong – plastic surgery is often done for aesthetic reasons. But that just touches on one part of the broad scope of this field. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 20 million plastic surgery procedures were done in the U.S. last year, to enhance appearance and also to restore normal function and appearance.

These differing objectives point to the two disciplines that fall under the umbrella term of plastic surgery. One is reconstructive surgery, which is done to correct defects from disease, congenital problems or injuries. For example, in 2012 more than 27,000 people had reconstructive surgery to repair damage from dog bites. Other reconstructive surgeries include:

  • Breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy.
  • Breast reduction for women with significant adverse symptoms from heavy breasts.
  • Repair of congenital defects such as cleft lip or palate, webbed fingers or toes, and other conditions.
  • Laceration repair.
  • Scar revision to make scars less visible.
  • Hand surgeries for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve or tendon repairs, contractures and many injuries.
  • Wound management, including skin grafting and other therapies.
  • Burn care.
  • Procedures for skin cancer.

The other type of plastic surgery is done to enhance appearance. It’s called cosmetic surgery, and although it isn’t intended to restore lost function it can make a significant difference in people’s lives. Many people feel they need a youthful appearance to compete in their job market. Others want to get rid of sagging skin after losing weight, and some people just want to feel more comfortable with their appearance. Many cosmetic procedures are on the rise in the U.S., including those for men. They include:

  • Breast reduction for aesthetic reasons.
  • Breast augmentation.
  • Pectoral implants for men.
  • Facelift.
  • Nose reshaping.
  • Lip and cheek augmentation.
  • Eyelid surgery.
  • Body contouring, including tummy tuck, arm lift for sagging upper arms, breast lift, lower-body lifts for sagging abdomen, buttocks, thighs, or other areas.

With any plastic surgery, and especially a cosmetic procedure, it’s important to consider the risks and limitations of the procedure. That means choosing a surgeon you are comfortable with, and who will have a frank discussion with you about what to expect. If you are considering having plastic surgery, here are some questions you can ask your surgeon:

  • What are the risks of the surgery?
  • What type of anesthesia will I have?
  • How long will my recovery take?
  • Can you show me before and after photos of someone who had this procedure?
  • How likely am I to achieve the result I want?
  • Will my insurance cover it? While reconstructive surgeries are usually covered, most cosmetic procedures are not.
  • If my insurance doesn’t cover my procedure, how much will it cost?

You can find out more about plastic surgery by visiting the American Society of Plastic Surgeons at


Shawn Lake writes for Community Medical Center.

 This article is also published in the Missoulian.