Kristie Hicks

A Short History of Plastic Surgery

Humans have been going under the knife for both medicinal and cosmetic reasons for thousands of years. While the discovery of their methods and invention of technology may have been to combat something, and in some cases restore what was broken by the same hands, the roots of these surgeries remain the same.

We as humans hold our visual appearance to a higher standard than we are often naturally given, and finding ways to match our internal self-image and external image has become part of our nature.

Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians are believed to be among the first civilizations to practice plastic surgery, although mostly on the more important people in society, or to amend false accusations which came with a gruesome punishment. An ancient Egyptian text known as Ebers Papyrus describes how to give a rhinoplasty to those who were previously punished with a rhinectomy (partial or full surgical removal of the nose) for criminal, political, religious or military reasons.

Old India

Sushruta, commonly referred to as the father of surgery, was supposed to have lived in India between 600 and 1000 BC. His compendium, aptly named Sushruta Samhita, outlines the methods and traditions of surgery in ancient India.

He is still celebrated today for his innovative methods in rhinoplasty, earlobe repair, and even penile and vaginal rejuvenation post child birth or from mutilation as punishment for law-breaking. His methods are still cited and in some cases have been reworked to suit modern days, and many historians refer to him as the greatest surgeon pre-medieval period.

Classic Greek

Paul of Aegina, another great hero in the history of medicine throughout the world, was a physician in the 7th century AD. Among finding brilliant solutions for various ailments of the time using the methods and technology that was available, Paul of Aegina recorded one of the mammoplasty surgeries in the form of a breast reduction to treat gynaecomastia. His works are outlined in his Medical Compendium in Seven Books, and he is regarded as the father of early medical books by historians today.

Recent History

The first recorded abdominoplasty, known at the time as a dermolipectomy, was performed in France in 1890. At the time performing this surgery and retaining the belly button was considered impossible, but only 15 years later doctors in France were able to perform the surgery without losing the belly button.

Modern Days

Nowadays there is a kind of plastic surgery that can change almost any feature on the human body, and the taboo around getting plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons is quickly fading thanks to modern media’s influence on culture. In modern America the most common plastic surgery is liposuction, which is perhaps a sad reflection on how people are dealing with a real issue in our modern society. Also becoming more common are injectables which has led to new and exciting methods of botched injection removal and silicone injection removal. Both of these may have been unimaginable problems to the likes of Sushruta or Paul of Aegina.

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