Plastic surgeons- Do you really know what they do?

People in today’s world are more health conscious and are aware of the different medical specialties. Despite the tremendous advancements in the field of Plastic surgery, there seems to be a limited knowledge among the general public and also among medical Professionals regarding the spectrum of plastic surgery. As a medical specialty, plastic surgery is poorly understood by both the general public and some medical professionals as well. Plastic surgery is a unique specialty that defies definition, has no organ system of its own, and is based on principles rather than specific procedures.

Unlike other medical disciplines, plastic surgery is not defined by an anatomic area (Ophthalmology, ENT, thoracic surgery) or organ system (gastroenterology, urology,) or patient age group (pediatrics, adolescent medicine, geriatrics).It deals with everything from head to toe; but is associated with the prefix Plastic which symbolizes nothing to the common man and medical community at large.

We all understand the role the media plays in informing and educating the public on issues of the day, but it seems that when it comes to plastic surgery, the press has a one track mind that leads them to cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgeons are often portrayed in the media as glamorous beings who give people a new lease of life through a ‘nip and a tuck’.

However, the reconstructive side of our work goes largely unreported. In India, it is not uncommon for us to encounter patients who after completion of all the procedures will ask when plastic surgery will be done and plastic will be used!

For all of us as plastic surgeons, plastic surgery is not just cosmetic and we need to educate and inform the public and non plastic surgical specialties as to what it is that plastic surgeons actually do. We understand that the name of our specialty itself is not understood by many. Unlike other specialties, where the name itself indicates the work being done by that particular specialty, plastic surgery lags behind on this front. It is easy to understand that an Ophthalmologist deals with eyes, and Pediatrician deals with kids, but when it comes to Plastic surgery, we are at a loss. The word Plastic surgery is actually derived from the Greek word ‘Plastikos’ which means to mould.

The spectrum of Plastic surgery is very wide. Plastic surgeons are trained in cranio-maxillo-facial reconstructions, which can be congenital or acquired, cosmetic surgeries, hand and peripheral nerve surgeries, burn management and post burn reconstruction, genitourinary reconstructions, occuloplastic surgeries, bed sore reconstructions, lower limb reconstructions,vascular as well as lymphatic surgeries, post oncologic reconstructions, and almost all sorts of surgeries which involve restoration of form and function.

There are many misconceptions regarding our specialty of Plastic surgery. Plastic surgery misconceptions pour from our television, movies, magazines and other sources. There is an overwhelming mass of information from uncertain sources, and shortage of facts, which frustrate the potential patients and make them have unrealistic expectations from Plastic surgery.