Plastic surgery alters certain areas of your body to treat medical issues or enhance appearance. Surgeons might perform procedures on your face, neck, breasts, stomach, arms and legs. Reconstructive surgery repairs defects or injuries and restores function. Cosmetic surgery enhances appearance for nonmedical reasons.
Plastic surgery takes its name from the Greek word “plastikos,” which means to “form” or “mold.” It includes a group of procedures that alter certain areas of your body. These include your face, neck, breasts, stomach, arms and legs. The terms “reconstructive plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” may seem similar, but they represent different types of procedures.
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Reconstructive surgery repairs defects or injuries from trauma. It also restores function and a natural-looking appearance.
You may need this type of surgery if you have:
Cosmetic surgery enhances appearance for nonmedical reasons. This group of procedures addresses physical features that make you self-conscious. Cosmetic surgery can bring you closer to your ideal body image. This type of surgery changes features such as:
Plastic surgeons perform plastic and reconstructive surgery. Surgeons from many fields perform cosmetic procedures. You may receive cosmetic surgery from a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat surgeon) or others.
Selecting your healthcare provider is important. You’re more likely to experience improved outcomes from surgeons with specialized training and experience in the procedure you need. Board-certified surgeons are an ideal choice. They must pass rigorous training and examinations demonstrating their knowledge of safety and quality practices.
Common types of reconstructive plastic surgery include:
All surgical procedures come with risks. Plastic and reconstructive surgery procedures are often complex. They may alter sensitive structures near major organs or delicate tissue. Cosmetic procedures can make significant changes to areas of your body that are otherwise healthy.
The likelihood of complications depends on various factors. They include surgery type, your health history and lifestyle factors such as smoking.
Some complications may occur during surgery, while others can develop after your recovery.
One of the main risks is that you might not achieve the result that you were expecting.
Other potential risks of plastic surgery include:
For most people, the benefits of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery outweigh the risks. There’s a lot you can gain from pursuing these procedures, including:
After you wake up and the anesthesia wears off, you may be able to go home. If you need to stay in the hospital, it’s typically just a night or two. Before going home, you’ll receive home-care instructions. Following them closely can lower your risk of complications.
Your home recovery may include:
Depending on the procedure, you may feel well enough to resume regular activities in a few days. Other procedures, like a tummy tuck, can take several weeks to months to recover. Some people realize the full benefits of their procedure and are pain-free within a few weeks. For advanced procedures, such as facial feminization surgery, it can take up to a year for swelling to go down.
In some cases, additional treatments may be part of your recovery. You may need:
You should contact your healthcare provider if you experience signs of complications. These include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Plastic surgery alters certain areas of your body to treat medical issues or enhance appearance. There are different types of plastic surgery, including reconstructive surgery, birth defect repair, cosmetic surgery and more. These are complex procedures with risks of complications. Receiving services from an experienced surgeon and following home-care instructions can help you have a safe experience. You’ll also be more likely to achieve the results you’re looking for.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/17/2022.
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