Plastic Surgery: A Potted History
Plastic surgery is seen by many as a modern industry, becoming popular from the late 20th century onwards. Whilst it is true that it’s during this time period when it became globally fashionable and rose to high numbers, the history of plastic surgery can actually be dated as far back as 800BC.
Modern-day cosmetic surgery procedures arose from reconstructive plastic surgery, with techniques that were developed for medical purposes being transferred and used for aesthetic procedures. However cosmetic surgery for purely aesthetic reasons may also have taken place many years ago -long before the 20th century in fact.
The first documented plastic surgery procedure was for rhinoplasty surgery (nose jobs) in India, as far back as 800BC. These were performed for reconstructive reasons, usually when men were injured on the battlefield. The first recorded purely aesthetic procedure was in Ancient Rome – a breast reduction operation on an overweight man.
These techniques did not spread throughout the globe at that stage, though India continued to perform reconstructive surgeries throughout history – it became their best-kept secret. The West did not become involved in plastic surgery until the Italians started to develop rhinoplasty surgery techniques of their own. It’s believed that Gasparo Tagliacozzi was responsible for this, during the latter half of the sixteenth century. Indeed he is believed by many to be the founding father of modern-day plastic surgery. These were also likely to be reconstructive – for casualties of war, and also syphilis sufferers (one particularly unpleasant symptom of the disease is its tendency to make the nose fall off).
British physicians only became aware of these techniques through traveling with the British Empire, when Indian rhinoplasties were finally uncovered. Like most instances prior, it was warfare that led to new developments in how it was used. With each war came new techniques to match ever-growing types of wounds and disfigurements.
Surgery in the 20th Century
Both the First and Second World Wars brought with them new reconstructive techniques, developed as a result of new types of injuries from new types of warfare, including burns. WWII, in particular, saw an abundance of new techniques and during the post-war period, doctors began to see how these medical developments could be used for aesthetic purposes. The industry began to develop in the US in the 1950s, becoming increasingly popular during the 1960s. Breast implants, which had been developed for people who had undergone mastectomies, were the most popular type of cosmetic surgery. In Britain, it was not until the 1970s that cosmetic surgery became widely available.
There are now ever greater numbers of those who elect to have surgery for aesthetic reasons, for all manner of facial or bodily transformations. The US and Brazil are the biggest fans, with North Korea and areas of the Middle East also hotspots.
For now, breast augmentation is the undisputed queen of all cosmetic surgery procedures. It is by far the most popular surgery worldwide, with particular hotspots being the US and Britain. UK Plastic Surgeon and breast surgery specialist Adrian Richards comments:
“The number of patients seeking breast augmentation at our clinics has always been high and is growing all the time. With such high demand and innovations like fat transfer coming through, it’s a procedure that shows no sign of losing its popularity.”