Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview

What is reconstructive plastic surgery?

Reconstructive plastic surgery is performed to correct facial and body abnormalities caused by birth defects, trauma, disease, or aging.

About 4.9 million reconstructive plastic surgeries are performed each year in the US. Usually, the goal of reconstructive plastic surgery is to improve body function. However, reconstructive plastic surgery may also be performed to create a more normal appearance and improve self-esteem (this may also be called cosmetic surgery). Abnormal structures of the body may result from the following:

  • trauma

  • infection

  • developmental abnormalities

  • congenital (present at birth) anomalies

  • disease

  • tumors

Who are candidates for reconstructive plastic surgery?

Generally, two types of patients have reconstructive plastic surgery, including the following:

  • persons with congenital anomalies (including cleft lip, craniofacial anomalies, or hand deformities)

  • persons with developmental deformities (including those due to an accident, infection, disease, or aging)

Possible complications associated with reconstructive plastic surgery:

Any type of surgery carries some risk. Patients differ in their anatomy and their ability to heal. Some complications associated with reconstructive plastic surgery may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • infection

  • excessive bleeding

  • bruising

  • difficulty in wound healing

  • anesthesia problems

  • surgery problems

Risk of complications may increase if a patient:

  • smokes.

  • has connective-tissue damage.

  • has skin damage from radiation therapy.

  • has decreased circulation at the surgery site.

  • has HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

  • has an impaired immune system.

  • has poor nutritional habits.

How to prepare for reconstructive plastic surgery:

The specific type of surgery will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history

  • severity of the deformity

  • your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • location of the deformity

  • your opinion or preference

Reconstructive plastic surgery may require multiple procedures done in several stages.

There are a number of areas in plastic surgery that may be either or both reconstructive or cosmetic, depending on a patient's situation. For example, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) may be a procedure performed for cosmetic improvement, as well as to correct eyelids that are drooping severely and obscuring vision.


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