If you’re a patient interested in plastic surgery, you may wonder what the difference is between cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. Understanding the differences can help you decide what is best for your treatment goals.
Reconstructive surgery is performed to correct physical defects caused by birth disorders, injuries, burns or diseases. It can also address inherited deformities.
What is Plastic Surgery?
Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty that focuses on restoring, reconstructing or altering the body. It includes breast reconstruction, skin cancer removal and burn surgery.
Cosmetic surgery is performed to enhance a person’s appearance and improve their self-esteem (this may also be called aesthetic surgery). It includes rhinoplasty for noses too large or blepharoplasty for eyes with drooping eyelids.
Reconstructive plastic surgery involves repairing or correcting deformities on the face or body caused by congenital disabilities, trauma or medical conditions, including cancer. These include cleft lip and palate, ear deformities, and burn injuries.
The field of plastic surgery encompasses hundreds of different procedures ranging from minimally invasive treatments to traditional surgical techniques. A Bellevue plastic surgeon can work closely with various specialties to repair, restore, and improve a patient’s appearance and function.
What is Reconstructive Surgery?
Reconstructive surgery is plastic surgery that repairs or reshapes body parts damaged by disease, trauma or congenital disabilities. This can help you look and feel better and improve your confidence.
Reconstruction can help you regain normal function and appearance, even after a cancer diagnosis or a severe accident. It can also help you recover from previous surgery, like a breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.
The process begins with planning, patient counseling, modeling, and pre-surgical treatments. It is then completed with surgery and recovery, and long-term support.
Reconstruction procedures can involve tissue transplants, grafts from a donor site (like the belly), or artificial implants. Tissue grafts take healthy tissue from a part of the body to fill in an area with a defect, such as a cleft lip and palate.
What is Cosmetic Surgery?
Cosmetic surgery is a medical specialty that focuses on changing or enhancing a patient’s appearance. It is entirely elective, meaning patients choose to have procedures performed.
The goal of cosmetic surgery is to improve self-esteem and confidence. Several techniques are used to do this, including removing wrinkles and facial creases, tightening skin, or reshaping an area of the body.
Plastic surgeons can also do reconstructive procedures to repair damage caused by illness or traumatic events such as accidents. Examples include scar revision surgery after cancer or congenital disability and breast reconstruction following breast cancer (mastectomy).
Before undergoing any surgical procedure, ask questions about the expected results. Be sure to get a full explanation of what the surgery will do and how long you will need to recover.
What is Tissue Expansion?
Tissue expansion is a reconstructive technique that promotes the growth of healthy supplementary skin used to replace damaged tissue. This can be used in various areas, from burns and scarring to facial disfigurements and alopecia.
It can be performed on children and adults to repair skin damaged by congenital or acquired defects. It allows plastic surgeons to use the same skin as adjacent healthy tissue, which results in a less noticeable surgical scar.
This procedure involves the insertion of an expander (an inflatable balloon) under the skin at a site close to the defect, which is gradually filled with saline. As the balloon fills with fluid, the skin over it stretches and grows.