The History of Plastic Surgery: A Look Back in Time

By: Dr. J. Timothy Katzen


Back to Roots

Plastic surgery has a long and fascinating history, dating back to ancient civilizations that used various surgical techniques to reconstruct and repair the body. Over time, plastic surgery has evolved into a sophisticated medical field that includes both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.

The term "plastic surgery" comes from the Greek word "plastikos," which means "to mold" or "to shape." The term was first used in the medical field in the 1800s to describe the process of reshaping body tissues for reconstructive purposes.

There are several misconceptions about plastic surgery, including that it is only for vanity purposes and involves invasive surgery with a long recovery time. In reality, plastic surgery encompasses both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures, which are often medically necessary for improving function or correcting defects. Additionally, many plastic surgery procedures can now be performed using minimally invasive techniques with shorter recovery times.

India (1000 -800 BC)

Sushruta was a founding father of plastic surgery and lived in India. He is known for his innovative methods of rhinoplasty. He is credited with treating patients who had noses, earlobes, and genitals amputated for religious or criminal punishment. In his book Sushruta Samhita (abut 900 BC) described free-graft rhinoplasties and forehead flaps for complex nasal reconstruction.

ITALY 1560s

Dr. Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599) was another pioneer of plastic surgery. Dr. Tagliacozzi was a pioneering Italian plastic surgeon known for his innovative approach to repairing nasal deformities using arm flaps. His technique involved taking a flap of skin from the patient's arm and grafting it onto the damaged area of the nose. This allowed him to reconstruct the nasal tissue with living skin and greatly improve the patient's appearance and functionality. Dr. Tagliacozzi’s skill and expertise in plastic surgery made him highly sought after by patients seeking to correct facial deformities, and he was widely regarded as one of the foremost experts in the field. His legacy continues to inspire and inform modern plastic surgery techniques, and he remains a respected figure in the medical community.

World War I (1914-1918)

Before World War I, most battle injuries were caused by swords or small fire arms. However, weapons used during World War I included heavy artillery and machine guns. These weapons led to massive facial and soft-tissue injuries. Sir Harold Gillies (1882-1960) was a New Zealand surgeon in England who created a special surgical ward dedicated to treat World War I veterans with facial injuries. He is credited with creating innovative and novel techniques to reconstruct traumatic facial injuries. Sir Gillies has been nick-named “Facemaker”. Sir Gillies is considered the father of modern Plastic Surgery.

Myths and Misconceptions

A misconception is that plastic surgery always results in a "perfect" or "unnatural" appearance. Skilled plastic surgeons strive to achieve natural-looking results that enhance a patient's features rather than completely altering them. It's essential for patients to have realistic expectations for their results and to communicate their goals and concerns with their plastic surgeon during the consultation process. A plastic surgery myth that has been debunked over the years is that breast implants cause cancer. However, numerous studies have shown that there is no link between breast implants and an increased risk of breast cancer. Indeed, breat implants are used to reconstruct the female breast after breast cancer surgery.

20th Century Developments

In the 20th century, plastic surgery continued to evolve with the development of new techniques and procedures. For example, Dr. Vilray Blair introduced the Blair rhinoplasty technique, which made small incisions inside the nose for more natural-looking results. Another major advancement was the development of the first breast implants in the 1960s, which revolutionized the field of cosmetic surgery and remains popular today.

Plastic Surgery in the 21st Century

Fast forward to the 21st century, and plastic surgery is more advanced than ever before. Plastic surgeons can achieve even more precise and natural-looking results thanks to new technologies and surgical techniques. One of the most significant advancements in recent years is the development of minimally invasive procedures like Botox and fillers, which can help reduce the signs of aging without the need for surgery.

A Look into Dr. Katzen’s Past

Since the year 2000, I have been in private practice. During this time, I have witnessed the shift from breast augmentation and liposuction being popular procedures to an increasing demand for reconstructive surgery after massive weight loss. Over the years, my practice has further evolved to encompass the removal of silicone injections, which became a prevalent issue, and I have developed closed and open techniques for their safe removal. Our primary focus remains on reconstructive surgery after massive weight loss, silicone injection removal, and VASER hi-def liposuction.

Plastic Surgery Today

Modern plastic surgery has also become increasingly common, with over 1.8 million cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2020 alone, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This includes procedures such as breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tucks, and facelifts.

While plastic surgery was primarily associated with celebrities, it has become more mainstream and accessible to the general public. In fact, according to a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2020, 87% of cosmetic procedures were performed on women, and 13% were performed on men.
It's also worth noting that plastic surgery is no longer just for the rich and famous. Many plastic surgery practices offer financing plans, such as payment plans or loans, to help patients cover the cost of their procedures. Additionally, some insurance plans now cover certain plastic surgery procedures, such as breast reduction or reconstruction after a mastectomy.

There is still a fascination with celebrity plastic surgery, with many people looking to their favorite stars for inspiration. In fact, according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 40% of surgeons reported an increase in requests for celebrity-inspired procedures in 2020.
However, it's essential to approach plastic surgery with caution, and patients should do their research and choose a plastic surgeon with experience in the procedure they are considering. They should also have realistic expectations for their results and be aware of the potential risks and complications of the procedure.
Modern plastic surgery has become a popular and widely accepted option for those seeking to improve their appearance and quality of life. While plastic surgery was once primarily associated with celebrities, plastic surgery has become more accessible and affordable for the average person. With financing options, insurance coverage, and a wider range of procedures available, more and more people are undergoing plastic surgery to enhance their appearance and improve their self-confidence.

Contact Dr. Katzen to Discuss if Plastic Surgery is Right for You

Dr. Katzen has performed thousands of plastic surgery procedures. If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Katzen is currently scheduling initial consultations for patients. In-person appointments are available at his offices in Beverly Hills, CA, Las Vegas, NV, and Dubai UAE. Alternatively, Dr. Katzen offers virtual appointments via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, and FaceTime.

Call (310) 859-7770 today to schedule your appointment and achieve your desired body.


* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.