Common Misconceptions in Plastic Surgery

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In order to understand the many misconceptions regarding my specialty we must first understand the meaning of the term Plastic Surgery. Plastic Surgery is a specialized branch of surgery concerned with deformities and defects of the skin and the underlying muscular and skeletal framework. The word plastic is actually a verb which implies the property of being able to mold, bend or shape soft tissue. The first and most obvious misconception is that Plastic Surgery is aimed at improving only the appearance. However, the reconstruction side of the specialty strives to improve functional problems that can enable people to live a full and active lifestyle. Examples of reconstructive Plastic Surgery would be the repair of a Cleft Lip in a newborn child or the Reconstruction of a breast after mastectomy.

Another common misconception is that following a procedure “I will have that operated or done appearance”. This misconception is primarily due to the great demand for cosmetic surgery which is exaggerated by the media’s coverage of celebrities. The most common fear is that I will have a nose like Michael Jackson or a face like Phyllis Diller. In reality, the goal of any cosmetic procedure should be a subtle improvement that highlights our own natural beauty, without the extreme over done appearance.

Another misconception comes in the form of this question: “I want my scar removed.” It must be understood that once you have a scar it can never be totally removed. However, it can be significantly improved to the point of it not being noticeable. There are a multitude of procedures to improve scarring and they all are based on thinning and blending the scar in with the surrounding skin.

I have been often asked “If I have a cosmetic procedure, does this mean that I must have multiple other procedures done in the future?” The answer is no. Cosmetic procedures are done to improve our own appearance and are not intended to create an appearance that distorts or disfigures to the point of the patient looking like someone else. The over zealous approach can distort and therefore cause the need for future procedures to remedy the situation.

Finally, many patients will often bring in a photograph of another person (often a model) and request that appearance. One must understand that there are multiple limitations with trying to obtain this goal. First and foremost, we all have a different skeletal framework, second our skin types are all different and lastly the appearance of the requested anatomical change on our framework may look nothing like the photograph of that model in the magazine. It therefore, must be an understanding between the Plastic Surgeon and the patient that they must work within the framework of a realistic outcome relative to the different physical characteristics of each person.