Summary: People who undergo plastic surgery are generally trying to change the way they look. That’s the nature of the procedure. But the motivation behind that change varies with every patient. There are some patients who feel as though their lives cannot continue the way they want them to without a change of the nose. And there are other patients who have encountered trauma—a veteran, for example—who are now disfigured and want a more “normal” look. This is where reconstructive plastic surgery comes in, and it’s a great way for people to reclaim their lives.

motivations for reconstructive surgery

Motivations for Reconstructive Surgery

Plastic surgery has a reputation for cosmetic changes: making people look and feel more beautiful, simply because those people want to look more beautiful. Don’t like your nose? That’s okay, we can change that. Don’t like your tummy? A tummy tuck is in order. Don’t like the size of your breasts? Well, you get the idea. These are valuable services, and they can make an enormous difference in the life of a patient. But there’s a difference between aesthetic plastic surgery and reconstructive plastic surgery, and I think that difference is worth commenting on, at least right now. That’s not to disparage what aesthetic plastic surgery does—obviously. Rather, I want to shine a light on reconstructive plastic surgery.

In a recent article, featured on the Today Show, a plastic surgeon talked about the work he did helping veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reclaim their lives. This surgeon worked to help eliminate scars and replace body parts (such as ears and noses) so that these veterans could continue with their lives in a more normal fashion. As anybody who has received a traumatic and scarring injury knows, those scars or disfigurements can elicit all kinds of unwanted attention. And that can make it difficult to, basically, live a normal life. So this reconstructive plastic surgery allows patients to feel more normal in their daily activities.

That’s How Plastic Surgery Got Started

This shouldn’t be surprising. If you look at the history of plastic surgery, the profession got it’s start after World War I. Physicians helped wounded and disfigured veterans of the first world war restore some semblance of normality to their faces and bodies. This helped a good many people live far more normal lives than would have otherwise been possible. Plastic surgeons have been endeavoring to continue helping patients do just that for the past hundred years or so.

Of course, what plastic surgeons are able to accomplish with reconstructive procedures has expanded significantly. One example is the team of breast reconstruction surgeons in Englewood, NJ, who have earned an excellent reputation for providing breast reconstruction services to women who have had to undergo single or double mastectomy due to breast cancer. Indeed, this is among the most high profile examples of reconstructive surgery around today. Reconstructive surgery after breast cancer or other breast trauma helps women reclaim their normal, daily life—or at least the feeling of it.

Breast Reconstruction After Cancer

Indeed, modern breast reconstruction techniques are able to recreate breast tissue in fairly convincing ways. The reconstructed breast tissue itself looks and feels quite natural, as it is often donated from another area of the body, such as the abdomen. So the breast is constructed out of real material—it’s not an artificial breast, in other words. Later, the surgeon may be able to at least partially reconstruct the nipple and a specialized tattoo artist then goes about making the tattoo look as natural as possible. This can give a woman the ability to wear certain styles of clothing or even bikinis with a great deal of confidence, especially as the scars fade over time.

After all, these procedures are designed to help give people back something that they’ve lost or something that they’ve never had. In some cases, the disfigurement is due to a birth defect (such as a cleft pallet or cleft lip) and the plastic surgery is designed to correct the problem immediately. In other cases, a trauma will create a disfigurement. And that doesn’t apply only to veterans of foreign wars. Americans are perfectly capable of injuring themselves during their daily lives—whether that’s in a car accident or whether that’s a mishap with scissors. In other words, any one of us could, at some point in our lives, require reconstructive plastic surgery.

Helping Patients Get Their Lives Back

It’s a good thing, then, that, as a field, reconstructive surgery keeps getting better and better at what it does, improving the looks of the final result and diminishing the recovery time for those results. This is important because the less invasive a procedure is, the better it usually heals, and the more likely patients are to consider it. So it’s worth taking some time to recognize the contributions that reconstructive plastic surgery are making to the field.

Indeed, many patients are living happier, more normal lives thanks to the work of their reconstructive surgeon. That’s true whether we’re talking about a soldier who encountered a roadside bomb or a woman who encountered breast cancer. And in this way, reconstructive plastic surgery sure is a great thing.