Reconstructive surgery is a subspecialty of plastic surgery that can dramatically improve the quality of one’s life by restoring not only appearance but physical function.
Often, when one thinks of plastic surgery, plain vanity is assumed to factor in. But what if you have had a severe injury or illness that caused severe damage to your personal appearance, and with it your self-esteem and your overall physical function? Reconstructive surgery can improve all of these facets of one’s life.
Some examples of reconstructive surgery include: skin grafts for burn victims, facial reconstruction following an accident, cleft palate repair, congenital webbed finger separation, “flaps” of muscle used to replace tissues lost to surgery, most commonly breast flaps used to replace tissue lost to mastectomy for the cure of breast cancer.
Whereas the goals of cosmetic surgery are to improve on normal appearance, reconstructive surgery seeks to restore damaged appearance and function. One of the most common types of reconstructive surgery is the skin graft. Burns or other types of accidents can leave the skin damaged or torn away. Skin grafting is a type of reconstructive surgery in which skin is taken from a distant site and placed onto the underlying damaged muscle and fat. This type of reconstructive surgery is performed in an operating room and may need to be repeated over several surgeries.
Breast reconstruction is a type of reconstructive surgery in which a “flap” of muscle, usually the abdominal muscle, is partially cut away and then folded over into place where the breast used to be. The flap is shaped and skin is then used to cover it to simulate the appearance of a normal breast.
Reconstructive surgery can restore normal function and appearance to a child born with a cleft palate or webbed (or extra or missing) fingers. Reconstructive surgery techniques can close the gap between the left and right side of a cleft palate, or separate two fingers fused together before birth. A face damaged in a terrible accident can be repaired using reconstructive surgery techniques. In these and so many other ways, reconstructive surgeries can greatly improve people’s lives.