The History of Plastic Surgery
Surgery to repair and replace the look of the human body and face is a far cry from a new art or science. In fact, the text books on Plastic Surgery date back to the 1800s and experimentation in the field goes back almost as long as medicine itself. This is a subject that is exceptionally fascinating to so many of our TSLMS members that we have committed an entire blog entry just to the medical history of fixing ourselves through procedures.
The Biggest First in Plastic Surgery
While there was a definite compulsion toward repairing people’s faces and limbs from the time that modern medicine began to focus on beauty and aesthetics, there is an identifiable first patient recognized as benefitting from significant plastic surgery. Otherwise referred to as ‘Radical Reconstruction’ his name was actually Willie Vicarage. He was not the first to have ‘plastic surgery,’ just the first to have such an extensive surgical procedure done. Here is what was so remarkable about this man, as noted by ODDEE.com:
Willie Vicarage, who was suffering from facial wounds that he sustained in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, was one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery. Antibiotics had not yet been invented, meaning it was very hard to graft tissue from one part of the body to another because infection often developed. But while treating Vicarage, Dr. Gillies invented the “tubed pedicle.” This used a flap of skin from the chest or forehead and “swung” it into place over the face. The flap remained attached but was stitched into a tube. This kept the original blood supply intact and dramatically reduced the infection rate.
But what we find remarkable about Vicarage’s surgery is the extent to which the grotesque wounds of the battle field were repaired and how different the man looked after the reconstructive procedure. This surgery could never have been completed if there had not been so much work for so many years prior that led up to these medical capabilities.
A Beautiful Long History of Plastic Surgery
Did you know that surgical history, which goes back to Greco-Roman times, was on fast forward even through the middle ages – but was stopped by the ancient Catholic church when, “Pope Innocent III declared that surgery in any form was expressly prohibited by Church law.” Scientific progress resumed during the Renaissance in full force and moved from there to the remarkable thing that it is today. Very Well Health lays this history out, noting a few key points:
- A fifteenth-century Islamic text entitled Imperial Surgery was written by Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu, and included material on maxillofacial surgery and eyelid surgery. It also included a protocol for the treatment of gynecomastia which is believed to be the foundation for the modern method of surgical breast reduction
- World War I that brought plastic surgery to a new level within the medical establishment. Military physicians were required to treat many extensive facial and head injuries caused by modern weaponry, the likes of which had scarcely been seen before. These grave injuries necessitated brave new innovations in reconstructive surgical procedures
- While many of these medical advances originated in Europe, there were other surgical strides being made in the U.S., including the first cleft palate operation in 1827, which was performed by Dr. John Peter Mettauer using surgical instruments of his own design. However, it was not until the early 20th century that modern plastic surgery was to be recognized as its own medical specialty. In 1907, Dr. Charles Miller penned the first text specifically written on cosmetic surgery, entitled The Correction of Featural Imperfections.
- Other U.S. surgeons of note during this time included Dr. Vilray P. Blair, Dr. William Luckett, and Dr. Frederick Strange Kolle. Dr. Blair performed the first closed ramisection of the mandible in 1909 and published Surgery and Diseases of the Mouth and Jaw in 1912, while Dr. Luckett described a correction for protruding ears in 1910, and Dr. Kolle published his text, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery, one year later in 1911.
A Modern History of Plastic Surgery Parlays Into Cosmetic Surgery
It did not take long for the war surgeons to begin paying attention to the opportunities to help people look better as they did their reconstructions. In fact, the work they did quickly drew the attention of other surgeons who saw a chance to make their mark on the beauty world. In the 1960s silicone breast implants were introduced into the marketplace and in the 1970s the advances in craniofacial surgery led to major advances in facial cosmetic surgery. The 1980s saw liposuction become the next big thing and the 1990s saw a full hand transplant, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Market reports put out by the same group show the enormous trajectory that cosmetic surgery had from 2000-2009. There was a 69% increase in total cosmetic procedures and a 99% increase in that time in what has become the most desired cosmetic procedures – those considered minimally invasive. (Source). These procedures are largely made up of injectables, such as fillers and botulinum.
Over the last decade this trend has continued. Today there are more people looking to enhance their look in the US and around the world than there has ever been before. This includes populations which are adding to the growth market, such as men who were later entering the cosmetic enhancements market. Today science and technology is explosive in its progress leaving us wondering what the future will hold.