September 2017

The History of Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery is a  surgical specialty that is dedicated to altering or repairing the human body. Plastic surgery can be divided into: cosmetic surgery, reconstructive surgery, craniofacial surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery and burn treatments.[1]

The etymology of the name 'plastic surgery' is an interesting one - many people associate it with the artificial materials used in surgery such as silicone and plastic. However, the name actually comes from the Greek, plastikosa, which roughly translates to "to mold or give form (to flesh)".[2]

One might think that plastic surgery is a relatively modern brainwave but in actuality, the practice can be traced as far back as 2000 B.C.[3] Historians imply having records of Ancient Indian and Egyptian physicians practicing the bare basics of plastic surgery - for example, in Ancient Egypt, reeds were used in nose reconstruction to keep the nostrils flared as the nose healed.[4]



The Roman Empire also dabbled in plastic surgery, unsurprising given that it was a culture that favored the aesthetic and beauty of the human form. Ancient Roman doctors would operate on former gladiator warriors who had become disfigured in battles, and Roman medical writer, Aulus Cornelius Celsus wrote a medical tome called "De Medicina", which outlined surgical practices for breast reduction and reconstruction of the ears, nose and lips.[5]

While there are some notable historical texts chronicling plastic surgery practices, a particularly significant one hails from India. Written by Indian doctor, Acharya Sushruta in 600 B.C., Sushruta Samhita is a collection of medical texts dedicated to plastic surgery and is considered by many historians to be the first of its kind in ancient history.[6]

The practice of plastic surgery took a dive with the fall of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity, which forbade body alterations and changes. However, the introduction of anesthesia and antiseptics brought about a resurgence in plastic surgery in the late 18th century and became a prominent medical practice in the wake of the two World Wars that left many individuals wounded, scarred and disfigured.[7]



Now, plastic surgery is practiced worldwide for various reasons. Numerous boards and associations like the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, found in 1985, were established to monitor, control, fund and help the progress of plastic surgery as a medical practice. Potential patients will be reassured when choosing a clinic that is board certified because they know that the care and treatment they receive will be from trained and board certified doctors and surgeons who specialize in the field of plastic surgery.[8]



[1] 'Plastic Surgery' in Wikipedia, viewed on July 2nd, 2017,

[2] 'Why Is 'Plastic Surgery' Called So?', in Times of India, published December 28, 2002, viewed on July 2nd, 2017,

[3] Janelle Salcido, 'The History of Plastic Surgery', in, published 2010, viewed on July 2nd, 2017,

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] Randolph C. Robinson, MD, DDS, FAACS, 'The History of Cosmetic Surgery', in Robinson Cosmetic Surgery, published August 7th, 2015, viewed on July 2nd, 2017,

[8] Randolph C. Robinson, MD, DDS, FAACS, 'The History of Cosmetic Surgery', in Robinson Cosmetic Surgery, published August 7th, 2015, viewed on July 2nd, 2017,