Plastic Surgery’s Miracles and Tragedies


Plastic surgery is a medical specialty that seeks to improve appearance with the restoration of lost, injured, defective, or misshapen parts of the body by the transfer of tissue. Ever since plastic surgery’s conception in the 5th century, it has become one of the fastest growing medical fields. While some people take this medical branch seriously and use it to improve defective parts of the body caused by accidents or birth deformities, most people have a lighter definition of this serious medical science, they seem to think that it is only to improve ones beauty or to defeat aging. This is why plastic surgery is so popular today; today’s society demands perfect men and women, these people try to have the ideal bodies shown on television, magazines, but by going to far andor being uninformed might cause tragedies, even death.

However, I believe that with the proper use and treatment, plastic surgery can cause miracles and change ones life.
Today many people think that plastic surgery is performed with plastic; however, this is not true, “plastic” derives from the Greek word “plastikos”, meaning to mold or to give form. Although most of the innovations of this field are 20th century, the first documented plastic surgery started in India in the 5th century AD. The first procedures, more similar to reconstructive surgery, involved skin flaps and skin graphs to reconstruct face mutilations. The nose, as a symbol of respect and dignity in this area, was a common example of reconstruction; one of the first successful surgeons of early reconstruction was Susrutu Samhita. Later, after World War I, soldiers with terrible face injuries where having face reconstruction and lifts by surgeon Hollander. The first cosmetic surgery paper was published in 1906 by Miller, an American surgeon who was then described as an unethical practitioner. Furthermore, many of the first cosmetic operations were performed by unqualified doctors and practitioners that often led to tight and tense skin faces, leaving no slack for movement because they were removing too much amount of skin. On the other hand, many other surgeons were introducing successful innovations but “It took a long time for the pioneers of this specialty to be accepted even by the medical community”(Sharma 270). For example, since 1980, liposuction was initially a procedure that caused a high level of blood loss, but Jeffrey Klein in 1987 introduced the tumescent technique that involved the infiltration of a solution with dilute amount of lidocaine and epinephrine before surgery. However, his technique, with 29-39% of blood loss difference was slowly adopted over the years. Now, plastic surgery is still growing to the extent where it is becoming a mayor issue in today’s society, and many problems are erupting.
In order for plastic surgery to be a success, patients and general population must know the difference between “going under” procedures and cosmetic treatments because most believe that having plastic surgery is as simple as the application of some special type of facial cream. Many procedures not requiring anesthesia such as facial exfoliations, botox and collagen injections are performed by plastic surgeons and hardly have bad outcomes, but when anesthesia is used, complications increase because most patients go under anesthesia for hours. Furthermore, a plastic surgeon must know how many procedures can be done during a single operation without risking the patient’s life. It is normal to have more than one procedure done at a single operation, but it prolongs recovery and increases the time a patient is anesthetized. Many people are unaware of the risks of anesthesia; it is one of the major causes of problems during operations. For example, Goldsmith chose the best board-certified plastic surgeon royalties could buy and had the operation at a respected hospital, but she still had a bad reaction to anesthesia. Although not sure, her death might have happened during an emergency appendectomy.
One reason that makes plastic surgery so popular is that body improvements may, in fact, raise one’s salary not because people after plastic surgery operations look better, but because their improvements in appearance boost up their self-esteem and confidence, so they become more sociable people and work with more energy; this, eventually can lead to promotions. However, in China people see appearance as the factor for raising earnings. Another reason for this popularity today is the model image that society demands. As described in television, commercials and magazines, the one with the best looks will be the one who is most successful in their social life, sex life and financial life. This attitude seems to be on the rise. From 1992 to 1997 the number of people having plastic surgery has tripled; in addition, the number of women having breast augmentation, between the years of 1992-2001, has increased 533% from 32,607 to 206,354, next was liposuction with a 313% increase in 10 years (47,212 to 195,135). Other procedures with substantial increases were tummy tuck, with a 231% increase, forehead lift with a 229% and eyelid surgery with a 137%.

From 2000-02 the amount of procedures equaled out, but in 2003 they started to rise again even faster than the years before. However the most popular procedures remained the same ones during the 4 years: rhinoplasty with an average of 367,751 patients, liposuction with 308,094, eyelid surgery with 260,758 and breast augmentation 230,852 patients.
Besides trying to look the best, another challenge men and women have is the prevention of aging. Most causes of body deterioration which strips away our beauty is due to is gravity, ultraviolet rays, natural forces, lifestyle and even genetics; when we sometimes hear “she’s got good genes” people are referring to genes that determine if, for example, a person will have dry or moist skin, the amount of collagen, the bone structure, etc. A person with dryer skin is more likely to show more aging features before the one with moist skin; therefore, these people take measures others wouldn’t. "Although we cannot reverse our chronological age, we can reverse the more important measures of our biological and psychological age — and by doing so can regain the physical and emotional vitality we had in the past," (Schoenhals, 48) Thus, most people consider taking risks to defeat aging and become young again. U.S. surgeons even offer voice lifts to people who want their vocal cords tightened, to make them sound as young as plastic surgery made them look.
The people that want to change their bodies get the courage to actually follow though with the changes and operations, by watching television programs such as I want a famous face, extreme makeover and plastic surgery before and after. Such programs make a patient’s transformation look unrealistically fast and easy. As Lianne George states, “Typical episodes consist of tears, unnaturally handsome doctors, a five-minute healing montage, a new hairdo and frenetic squeals of joy.”(40) What audience only sees is the positive side and does not know about the suffering that really happens behind the camera. Two patients from I want a famous face, Matt and Mike Schlepp, 20-year-old twins wanted to look like actor Brad Pitt so much that they got nose jobs, cheek and chin implants, and porcelain dental veneers totaling more than $22,000.Although they ended up liking their knew image, they were disappointed that they did not look like Brad Pitt. On the other hand, there are television programs that are trying to send messages that people can be “redone” without going under the knife. One of these programs, The Biggest Loser, a reality show, consists of 2 teams of 6 people with a personal trainer. Their objective is to undergo physical challenges and temptations to lose as much weight as possible. After each weak the team that loses the least has to eliminate one of their members, and the one that finally wins, is the one that lost the most weight "the biggest loser becomes the biggest winner" (NBC in Oldenburg). Some people think that shows like this give courage and help overweight people become healthier by losing weight using good methods, but such programs suggest that being a little overweight is a mayor problem and affects adolescents in a critical way.
Performing plastic surgery on adolescents is becoming more accepted. However, plastic surgeons are having problems in deciding whether or not to perform these procedures during the period of rapid physical and psychological development of their patients. On the other hand, plastic surgery may offer benefits to adolescents with psychological problems because of body deformities. These doctors feel that the altering of the deformities before the adolescents end up as adults with out self esteem, will be a worthwhile endeavor. A study has asked questions and compared adolescents with a general dissatisfaction of their body and adolescents in the general population. From 1995 to 1997, adolescents aged 12 to 22 years, 275 adolescents applied for plastic surgery in the south-western region of The Netherlands, and 35 did not undergo because of being overweight or for financial reasons.

(Simis, Verhulst and Koot 671)
N= number of adolescents aplicating per procedure.
The responses of the questions that were asked in the study show that adolescents have a realistic attitude towards their appearance, they are psychologically healthy, but are dissatisfied about the body parts that they are considering for operation (chart). However, introverted patients may need more attention from plastic surgeons during the psychosocial assessment.
Plastic surgery can be life altering because irreversible changes in ones body and life attitude occur, so the patient must know for sure what heshe is about to do. In addition, the patient must have realistic expectations, choose the most adequate procedures and have in mind the risk at all time. The doctor also must know the patient’s psychological position before selecting himshe as a patient; for instance, a woman that is obsessed with larger breasts and thinks that a larger size will change the world for her, is more likely to never be satisfied with her body; thus, she will take risks and extreme measures to try to be perfect, so the doctor must be cautious when he chooses this type of patients. They also must know the real reason why they are having operations and changes to their body. If the patient’s decision is based on different reasons other than improving hisher body, the operation could make that person feel worse with herselfhimself and be unhappier with the new body. Such reasons that should not lead to plastic surgery are believing that a new nose will turn one’s face into a famous face, hoping that larger breasts will attract a new handsome boyfriend, or thinking that a smooth stomach will revive a sagging marriage. Thus, “Before permitting any surgeon to adjust your physical profile, you must first adjust your psychological profile.”(Sharma 270)
Even some doctors do not take plastic surgery serious. Statistics say that there more than 200,000 malpractice suits over the past 10 years. Many of these doctors who are not qualified in cosmetic skin surgery, or trained as plastic surgeons accept plastic surgery appointments at a lower price; Furthermore, some even practice illegal procedures. For instance, models who can not afford expensive buttock implants take serious risks to have a similar outcome by injecting the buttock area with silicone bought at hardware shops. Consequently, many of these women die because the silicone gets clogged in arteries and veins, not allowing the cells to receive oxygen. Even famous people suffer from these terrible malpractises; Elaine Young, ex-wife of the actor Gig Young, had silicone injected into her cheeks instead of silicone implants, but the silicone traveled to her brain and almost killed her. She had to undergo 46 reconstructive surgeries to correct the damage, but her face was so severely paralyzed that she will never be able to smile again. Then she realized that even if doctors are from Beverly Hills and have fancy offices, doesn’t mean they are qualified. Elaine later made a successful campaign to ban the use of silicone in plastic surgery, and the doctor ended up committing suicide. In addition, many of these unqualified doctors allow other surgery procedures to be performed in un-sanitized areas such as offices and other non-surgical rooms. For instance, a common procedure known as “botox parties” consist of a group of men and women waiting in a room, wile every 15 minutes one is called in to an office where the botox injections are done. It is performed in groups because once botox is opened and diluted, it must be used within four hours. Botox procedures are injections of Botulinum Toxin Type A in the forehead muscles; this protein complex interferes with the muscle contraction and smoothes out forehead wrinkles and frown lines. Even though this treatment is not permanent, injecting the wrong amount of protein or in the wrong facial area the patient can end up with droopy eyelid muscles or other side effects such as headache, respiratory infection, flu syndrome, and nausea for weeks. However, botox injections are becoming more popular, in fact, in 2000 and 2001 approximately 821,378 people per year received injections, in 2002 1,1 million people and in 2003, almost 3 million people had botox injections. To look for the right doctor, patients usually select the first one in the yellow pages or the closest one, but they should put more serious effort into their search because heshe is going to perform operations that may cost their life, if the surgeon is not qualified with at least an M.S. or M.D.
However, overall, plastic surgery with the proper measures is an advance in today’s world. Even though some people criticize legal plastic surgery procedures with qualified doctors such as breast implants because they claim that they produce breast cancer, studies by researchers prove that women’s mortality rate with implants are lower than the rate of women without implants. The study looked for of all kinds of cancers in women with implants and in women who had plastic surgery not involving implants, and followed all women for 13 years. As a result, women with implants had a lower mortality rate, but they were more likely to die from brain cancer and committing suicide. The authors said that these cases are not related to exposure to silicone, but are due to factors common in the lifestyle of women who choose to have implants.
Secondly, plastic surgery is a great improvement to the lives of men, women and even children who were born with deformities or suffered accidental injuries because their bodies can be reconstructed. In these cases plastic surgery can cause miracles for people that thought they would never look “normal” again. In extreme cases, plastic surgery can even save ones life. For instance, before plastic surgery, infants that are born with rare skull deformities would die from cerebrospinal fluid leakage or infection, but if these infants are operated on while their skull tissue is still flexible, plastic surgeons can reconstruct their skull so they can live a normal life. Another example is Terri Rodriguez; She was diagnosed with breast cancer on both breasts. Instead of choosing kimerotherapy she chosed breast reconstruction. Her procedure involved taking out cancerijous tissue and replacing it with skin that was left from a tummy-tuck. The operations were a success, she had no cancer, and she even got a smooth tummy.
In conclusion, the young beautiful image that society demands is one of mayor causes of plastic surgery’s popularity today. This surgical branch can turn around the life of people with deformities and mutilations, but only with the right attitude, qualified plastic surgeons and the correct knowledge. If improper use, over usage and malpractise then irreversible accidents occur that even lead to death.

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