About Plastic Surgery

The word ‘plastic’ in Plastic Surgery is derived from the Greek word ‘plastikos’ which means to mould or give form. It refers to the way in which one can reshape the tissues of the body to restore form and function. Since its foundation, Plastic Surgery has encompassed both cosmetic (aesthetic) and reconstructive surgery. Historical evidence of these types of procedures date back more than four thousand years.

Today, the medical specialty of Plastic Surgery encapsulates a comprehensive and diverse set of subspecialty disciplines. Fully qualified surgeons who perform Plastic Surgery are known as Specialist Plastic Surgeons. They are integral to the public hospital system, and contribute extensively to the advancement of medical science through research, education and training.

  • Plastic Surgery in ancient times

    Plastic Surgery was probably first performed by Indian potters around 3000 BCE. Ritual amputation of the nose was the punishment dealt out to thieves and adulterers. The potters used a flap of tissue taken from the forehead to turn down over the nose defect, a technique still in use today.

    Physicians in India were using skin grafts for reconstructive surgery in 800 BCE. An Indian physician, Sushruta, described in his Sanskrit text, Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta’s encyclopaedia), methods of examination, diagnoses, treatments and procedures for reconstruction on nose and earlobes by using the skin from other parts.

    In the first century CE, the Roman medical encyclopaedist, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, was using advancement flaps. By around the 1st century, Romans were repairing damaged ears. Surgeries were performed and some progress was being made. But there were grave risks of infection with the existing standards of hygiene and surgery meant a lot of pain. Anesthesia had not been developed yet.

  • Plastic Surgery in modern times

    The 19th and 20th century saw significant advances in Plastic Surgery techniques. Reconstructive surgery, incorporating aesthetic techniques, restored form and function as well as normality of appearance. In the late 19th century anesthesia was introduced. During and after the First World War many soldiers required reconstructive surgery of serious head and facial injuries. Ironically, the terrible injuries sustained in World War One were the catalyst that propelled significant advances in reconstructive and aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

  • Formation of Plastic Surgery Societies

    Several Societies and sections of Plastic Surgery were formed around the world in the 1930s and 1940s. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons was founded in 1931; the Board of Plastic Surgery in America was founded in 1937 and in 1941, The American Association of Oral & Plastic Surgeons changed its name to The American Association of Plastic Surgeons. The British Association of Plastic Surgeons (BAPS) was founded in 1946. In 1955, the International Confederation of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery was founded in Stockholm, Sweden.

    In Australia and New Zealand, surgeons began working full time in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery after the Second World War.The section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Royal Australasian College of Surgery (RACS) was formed in 1956. It began with 21 members (17 from Australia and 4 from New Zealand). Later, the section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery became the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to align with other medical specialties in RACS.  Today, RACS remains the only College that is accredited by the Commonwealth Governments of Australia and New Zealand to deliver specialist surgical training.

  • Plastic Surgery Today

    Plastic Surgery has come a long way since its modest beginnings. Today, Plastic Surgery is a highly specialised and respected craft that has diversified to encompass a range of sub-specialty disciplines including:

    • Aesthetic/Cosmetic
    • Breast
    • Burns
    • Cleft Lip and Palate
    • Cranio, Maxillo, Facial
    • Hand
    • Head and Neck
    • Melanoma and Skin Cancer
    • Microsurgery
    • Ophthalmic
    • Paediatric
    • Reconstructive
    • Trauma and Emergency

    The title of Specialist Plastic Surgeon is protected by the Medical Board of Australia and reserved exclusively for Commonwealth Government accredited plastic surgeons. More information about about Specialist Plastic Surgeons can be found in the Patient Information section of this website.

  • Plastic Surgery Subspecialties

    There are many facets to Plastic Surgery. Subspecialties of Plastic Surgery comprises:

    • Breast Surgery
    • Burns
    • Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery
    • Cosmetic Surgery
    • Cranio-Maxillo-Facial Surgery
    • Hand Surgery
    • Head and Neck Surgery
    • Melanoma and Skin Cancer
    • Microsurgery
    • Opthalmic Eye Surgery
    • Paediatric Surgery
    • Reconstructive Surgery
    • Trauma and Emergency