Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty dedicated to the reconstruction
of facial and body structures. This procedure may be considered necessary
because of birth disorders, trauma, burns, disease or personal preference.
It also involves making people look better through facelifts (lifting and
stretching the skin to tighten it), rhinoplasty (restructuring the shape of
the nose) and liposuction (removing fat from the body using a surgical vacuum).
Plastic surgery constitutes reconstructive surgery (repairing damage or
fixing abnormalities) as well as esthetic surgery (improving the way a patient
Plastic surgery gets its name from the Greek word plastikos, which means
mold or shape. "The ability to take tissue and pull it, bend it, transfer
it or otherwise create structures is where the word 'plastic surgery' comes
from," says Dr. Michael Bermant, a surgeon from Virginia.
Bermant says his job involves a lot of problem solving. "We take problems
and mold or bend the flesh to try to come up with a solution," he says.
"That might mean taking tissue that doesn't look like an ear and making
it look like an ear, or taking a lip that's split when born and bringing it
back together again so it can heal and work like a lip.
"Plastic surgery is really an art," Bermant adds. "The body is the medium
we work with. We explore and try to learn the science and laws of flesh so
we can best work with this material and improve our results."
Since plastic surgeons make use of current technology, their business is
constantly evolving. "The most exciting thing happening to the field of plastic
surgery...is the great growth of new technology," says Dr. Lee Edstom, a plastic
surgeon working in Rhode Island.
"Specifically, laser instruments are going to revolutionize our practices,
at least in cosmetic surgery. We now have lasers that resurface the skin,
tighten the skin, remove hair and eliminate the tiny spider veins on the legs
Plastic surgeons may specialize in one area -- cosmetic surgery, hand surgery,
rhinoplasty or treating scars from face or neck cancer, for example -- or
they may deal with a broad spectrum of problems.
The work a plastic surgeon does is highly visible, leading to a high degree
of career and personal satisfaction. The discipline requires meticulous attention
to detail, sound judgment and technical expertise. Most surgeons work long,
hard hours, especially early on in their careers.
"On average, we work 50 hours a week," says Dr. Donald Capuano, a surgeon
in Rochester, New York. "Initially, you work 60 to 70 hours a week, and you
have to be ready to leave your supper, your family, your kids, and go. You
have to be ready to be tired and be ready to perform while tired. Basically,
you have to have a lot of energy."