Plastic Surgery: What You Need to Know

JULY 1, 2016

Have you ever thought about undergoing plastic surgery? If so, you’re not alone: according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), plastic surgeons performed 15.9 million cosmetic procedures and 5.8 million reconstructive procedures in 2015.

Plastic surgery, generally speaking, is defined as the sculpting or reshaping of an area of the body. It has nothing to do with plastics in the common use of the word – in fact, the term “plastic surgery” originated many years before the first petroleum-based plastics were created.

There are two types of plastic surgery: reconstructive and cosmetic. Reconstructive surgery is often a medical necessity, performed after a trauma or medical condition has left part of the body disfigured or damaged. Cosmetic surgery is elective and aimed at improving a physical feature that the patient would like to alter.

Common Reconstructive Surgeries

By far the most frequently performed reconstructive procedures are as a result of tumor removal. This includes skin cancers, which is the most common type of cancer. In the event that removal of a tumor, malignant or benign, results in a disfiguration, a plastic surgeon can often reconstruct the area so that it resembles its appearance before the tumor was removed.

The other most common types of reconstructive surgery include laceration repair, maxillofacial surgery, scar revision, and hand surgery.

Breast Reconstruction

Women who have undergone a mastectomy (removal of the breast) to treat breast cancer may be candidates for breast reconstruction surgery. Board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Emily McLaughlin and Dr. Larry E. Reaves both perform breast reconstruction surgeries.

“In some cases, we can perform a breast reconstruction immediately following the mastectomy, so to the patient, it’s just one surgery,” says Dr. Reaves. “In other cases, we may perform a reconstruction months or years after the mastectomy; it really depends on what’s best for the patient.”

“As a female plastic surgeon recently diagnosed with early breast cancer, facing bilateral mastectomies, the importance of reconstruction becomes more relevant than ever before,” shares Dr. McLaughlin. “The knowledge that a relative norm can be restored is a small concession during a difficult time.”

Common Cosmetic Surgeries & Procedures

According to the ASPS, candidates for cosmetic surgery are healthy, realistic and have a positive outlook. Cosmetic surgery may be helpful in improving appearance and self-esteem in healthy individuals, provided the procedure is being done for themselves. If you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery in order to please or impress someone else, plastic surgery is probably not for you. Furthermore, professionals recommend against patients deciding to undergo plastic surgery in times of crisis or duress. Finally, anyone who is dealing with mental health issues is not a good candidate for plastic surgery.

For many people, cosmetic surgery makes sense if it is something they want to do for themselves to feel or look better. Keep in mind that cosmetic procedures aren’t usually covered by insurance, so the patient is responsible for the cost. Many plastic surgeons have payment plans available for their patients. Here’s a look at the five most common types of cosmetic plastic surgeries performed in 2015:

Breast Augmentation

According to Dr. Reaves, “Breast augmentation can give women with small or unevenly sized breasts a fuller, firmer, better-proportioned look through the placement of saline or silicone implants in the breast.”

Both saline and silicone breast implants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a means for augmentation. The incisions for breast implants are generally made in an inconspicuous area, such as the armpit or the crease on the underside of the breast in order to conceal visible scarring.

The recovery period for breast augmentation surgery is fairly brief, with patients feeling tired and sore for a couple of days.

A breast lift is another type of cosmetic surgery that can be performed in conjunction with or independent of breast augmentation. Breast lift may be an option for a patient with sagging or “droopy” breasts.


Liposuction is an outpatient procedure in which specific fat deposits in the tissue are removed from the body through a suction technique. The most common areas of the body targeted by liposuction are the hips, abdomen, buttocks, waist and thighs, although it can also be utilized in the arms, legs, and back.

“Liposuction is by definition body contouring to address fat deposits refractory to diet and exercise,” says Dr. McLaughlin. “It is not intended to be a weight loss procedure but most patients will notice a significant change in shape – often inches off a treated area – once healed from the procedure.”

Nose Reshaping

Rhinoplasty often called a “nose job,” can achieve a better-sized nose in proportion to the face, correct a drooping, upturned or bulbous nose, correct nasal asymmetry, as well as address other physical issues.

“Nasal reconstruction was one of the first cosmetic procedures ever developed and is among those most frequently performed today,” says Dr. Yadro Ducic, a Facial Plastic Surgeon, and Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat specialist). Dr. Ducic is board certified in both Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Head and Neck Surgery. “With rhinoplasty, we can correct deformities of the nose by removing, rearranging or reshaping bone or cartilage.”

Tummy Tuck

An abdominoplasty, commonly referred to as a tummy tuck, is the removal of excess fat and skin in the abdominal area. People who have lost considerable weight, as well as women who have been pregnant, are sometimes candidates for a tummy tuck. In addition, aging and a previous surgery can be causes of a loose or sagging belly which can be improved through a tummy tuck.

As with liposuction, a tummy tuck is not a weight-loss surgery and is not an alternative to weight loss through diet and exercise. It is simply a procedure that evens out and tightens the abdominal area.

Minimally-invasive Cosmetic Procedures

Many patients opt for cosmetic procedures which do not require surgery, as there are a number of minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed by plastic surgeons. Some of the most common include:

Botulinum toxin

The injection of a botulinum toxin into certain areas of the face has proven effective at reducing wrinkles and smoothing skin. Approved by the FDA, this procedure can be used to reduce crow’s feet, brow wrinkles and frown lines.

When we furrow our brows, squint or frown, the repeated muscle contractions can lead to creases and wrinkles in the skin over time. The botulinum injection contains a purified substance which serves to block muscular nerve signals and weaken the muscle, thereby reducing wrinkles.

These injections create improvements lasting three to four months, at which time another round of injections will be needed; otherwise the wrinkles will return.


As we age, we lose fat tissue under the skin, which causes the skin to loosen. The injection of fillers can aid in reducing creases and wrinkles by tightening the skin.

Chemical Peels & Laser Resurfacing

A chemical peel removes dead layers of skin and promotes the production of new, healthy layers, as well as increased collagen production. Chemical peels can be effective at removing skin imperfections caused by sun damage, age or acne scarring.

“Chemical peels are one of the least invasive methods we can use to improve the appearance of a patient’s skin,” says Dr. Jesse E. Smith, a facial plastic surgeon, and otolaryngologist who is also board certified in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Head and Neck Surgery.

“Another option to reduce wrinkles and remove spots from the skin is laser resurfacing, in which we use a laser to remove the damaged layer of skin, promoting the growth of a new layer free of the discolorations that were present before,” Dr. Smith says. “This is a great alternative to a facelift, which is much more invasive and requires a longer recovery time.”

Is Plastic Surgery Right for You?

Cosmetic plastic surgery or a minimally invasive procedure may be something to consider for healthy people who want to improve a physical characteristic. If that describes you, contact one of the Texas Health Care physicians in this article for a consultation – they can answer your questions and help you decide if plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure is right for you.

This article contains information sourced from:

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Yadro Ducic, M.D.

Emily McLaughlin, M.D.

Larry E. Reaves, M.D.

Jesse E. Smith, M.D.

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