Because self-improvement has always been a drive of mankind, plastic surgery – the repairing and restoring of function and beauty – dates back to the earliest of times.
This kind of procedure was conducted as early as 2000 B.C., but become a more common practice by 800 B.C. in India. Advances in plastic surgery were very slow in evolving for centuries. Sushruta, the father of Indian surgery, made contributions to the field of plastic surgery in the 6th century BC.
The ancient Egyptians and Romans were early performers, with the Romans known to be doing simple procedures from the 1st century B.C.
In the middle of the 15th century A.D., Heinrich von Pfolspeundt advanced the field when he took skin from the back of the arm and used stitches to secure it in place on a patient’s nose.
When British physicians traveled to India in the late 1700s, they chronicled nose surgeries in 1794. Plastic surgery in the Western world was led by Joseph Constantine Carpue. In 1814, he replaced the nose of a British military officer.
John Peter Mettauer is regarded as the first American plastic surgeon,. Using instruments he designed himself, Mettauer performed the first cleft palate operation in North America in 1827. Other advances in American plastic surgery include: Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach introducing re-operation to improve the appearance of the reconstructed nose; and in 1891, American otorinolaryngologist John Roe reducing the dorsal nasal hump on a young woman.
In 1896, James Israel, a German urological surgeon, used free-bone grafting to repair saddle nose defects; and in 1889, surgeon Jacques Joseph advanced reduction rhinoplasty.
The devastating effects of war played a role in the advances in the field. Dealing with severely wounded and burned soldiers because of the weapons used in war, more devastating facial injuries were brought to doctors. It was through these treatments that doctors got continual work in plastic surgery and advances were made.
During World War I, Harold Gillies, working in London, developed many techniques that are common in modern plastic surgery. His cousin, Archibald McIndoe, expanded treatment procedues when caring for members of the Royal Air Force.
In 1931, structure was brought to the field in the United States through the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. The organization, the first of its kind in America, applied rules and regulations to plastic surgery. The organization created the first qualifying exam for surgeons and was the main source of information regarding the field in the United States. The organization is now called the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and is the largest plastic surgery association in the world.
Gillies was also noted for performing the first female-to-male sex reassignment surgery in 1946.
Plastic surgery continued to evolve in the 20th century under Vilray Blair, a plastic surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, and other American surgeons. Blair treated World War I soldiers and his paper “Reconstructive Surgery of the Face” became the bible for facial reconstruction work for years.
The field exploded in the 1960s and 1970s with people electing to have procedures done to improve their appearance instead of opting for reconstruction work after injuries.
Elective cosmetic procedures became a way for women to improve their appearance in the 20th and early 21st centuries. However, in 2007, the Mandell-Brown Cosmetic Surgery Center reported a large spike in procedures for men had been occurring for several years as well.