A brief history of plastic surgery
Elizabeth Bullivant takes us on a whistle stop tour from the Egyptian beginnings of the specialty, through its evolution, to its present day form
As surgical specialties go you may think that plastic surgery is one of the best known at the moment, courtesy of media coverage of celebrity “enhancements” and the never ending pursuit of the perfect appearance. Plastic and cosmetic surgery have, in the eyes of the public, become almost interchangeable terms, but in medical and historical contexts this isn't so. Cosmetic surgery involves elective procedures performed for aesthetic reasons, but plastic surgery refers to surgical reconstruction of deformity, providing normal appearance and function.
The specialty developed from its ancient Egyptian origins more than three thousand years ago. It progressed geographically, as knowledge disseminated from epicentres, including northern India at about 600 BC, Sicily in the 15th century Renaissance, Germany in the 19th century, and finally Britain in the two world wars.
Evidence of reconstructive surgery exists in Egyptian medical papyruses that date back to 1600 BC, describing reconstructive techniques employed by