The Origins of Plastic Surgery

Dr John works his surgical Crocs off looking to develop new techniques, treatments and garments to improve the field of plastic surgery.

Here we take a look back at the early pioneers – and how far back we go may come as a surprise!

The term itself comes from the Greek word “plastikos” meaning to mould or give form – which is fitting given Dr John’s background.

But the first-known procedures were carried out more than 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt.

Artefacts from the period – the best-known being the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus – document operations that included fixing nose injuries.

edwin smith papyrus

They would manipulate the nose into the desired position before using wooden splints, lint, swabs and linen plugs to hold it in place.

The Egyptians are also believed to have created the first prosthetics!

Plastic surgery’s story then moves on to India – in around 600 BC.

Dubbed the “father of plastic surgery”, a local doctor in the modern-day city of Varanasi created a remarkably advanced technique for skin grafts

Sushruta pioneered what we now call rhinoplasty – the nose job.


Nasal amputation was common at the time, either through injury or as a punishment.

So, he developed a technique that involved constructing new noses using skin from elsewhere on patients’ faces.

His work spread to eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.

Development slowed for a while until the Renaissance in the 15th century.

A Sicilian family of surgeons, the Brancas, created new techniques for repairing wounds to ears and lips using some of Sushruta’s methods.

Despite other advances, the next major milestone was not reached until the early 19th century.

This was when  and Karl von Graefe began using the term “plastic surgery”.

His publication Rhinoplastik in 1818 documented new rhinoplastic techniques.

And in 1845, the ground-breaking Operative Chirurgie became the first practical text to describe the principles and techniques of reconstructive surgery allowing others to learn the procedures.

Advances in skin grafts followed, but as with many modern surgical advances, war proved a catalyst.

Many believe in the six years of the second world war, progress was made equivalent to that in 50 years of peace.

Work centred on the treatment of facial deformities including jaw injuries and the reconstruction of burnt eyes, lips, and noses.

Surgery for cosmetic purposes was frowned up during this period – but that all changed in to 60s.

Many of today’s most common cosmetic procedures, such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and face re-shaping, became more popular.

And while many of the old techniques are still being used in one form or another – surgeons like Dr John will continue to push for improvements and new ways to better treat patients.

Sources: Wikipedia & CNN


Our latest articles:

Our latest articles: