ABCs of Plastic Surgery

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Beth Longware Duff, Medical Editor

Beth Longware Duff is an experienced writer and reporter whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines. Her health and medical writing credits include nationally distributed videos for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and she is the recipient of numerous awards including an American Cancer Society Media Award and a New England Press Association Award for Health Reporting. She holds a degree in Communications from Ithaca College.


November 10 2008

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A is for asymmetry, defined as when parts of the body are unequal in shape or size. Although no body is perfectly symmetrical, it's the ideal that inspires many people to first consider plastic surgery.

B is for breast augmentation, reduction, and lift, the three most common cosmetic surgery breast procedures for women. Combine an augmentation or reduction with a lift and a tummy tuck, and you've got the mommy makeover.

C is for collagen, a natural fibrous protein used as an injectable filler for soft tissue augmentation. Collagen is manufactured by the human body to connect and support bodily tissues, including skin, and is crucial to the healing process.

D is for dermabrasion (skin planing), a surgical procedure that removes or "sands" the skin with a rotary abrasive instrument to improve its contour and appearance. Not to be confused with microdermabrasion, which is a less invasive treatment for minor skin problems.

E is for edema and embolism, two possible risks of plastic surgery. Edema means swelling, and an embolism is a blood clot or air bubble in a blood vessel.

F is for face lift, also known as a rhytidectomy and perhaps the plastic surgery procedure most closely associated with the concept of a more youthful appearance. About a dozen different types of face lift techniques exist, meaning there's sure to be one to meet your needs.

G is for general anesthesia, the drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness. Other forms of anesthesia include conscious sedation, regional, and local anesthesia.

H is for human fat graft. Fat is harvested from your own body and used as an injectable filler for soft tissue augmentation. The big advantage is that the chance of rejecting the graft is nil.

I is for implants – breast, chin, cheek, jaw, calf, and butt. Implants are used to enhance a particular body part. Silicone is one of the most common materials used to make implants.

J is for jaw line, also known as the mandible. A weak jaw can throw a whole face out of balance, so the goal is to enhance it so that it compliments the rest of the facial features.

K is for keloid, a type of scar that forms while a wound is healing. The skin and connective tissue cells overmultiply and project over the surface of the skin. People of color are more susceptible to keloid scars.

L is for liposuction, also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy. Liposuction suctions out fat from beneath the skin's surface to reduce fullness. It was the top surgical cosmetic procedure in 2007, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Laser liposuction is just one of the techniques currently in use.

M is for maxillofacial, a mouthful that refers to the area of the upper jaw and face. Usually initially qualified in dentistry, maxillofacial surgeons often go through further surgical training and may choose a subspecialty in a number of areas, including cosmetic surgery.

N is for nasolabial folds, the deep creases between the nose and mouth that are sometimes referred to as marionette lines. If they become too prominent, they can be diminished with injectable fillers.

O is for otoplasty. Otoplasty is surgery that can reduce the size of an overly large ear, pin back ears that stick out too far, or repair or recreate an outer ear misshapen by birth defect or trauma.

P is for preparation, as in getting ready for your plastic surgery well in advance of the Big Day. Our cosmetic plastic surgery forums (links to http://talk.newimage.com) are a good place to start.

Q is for qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon, which is who you should be looking for to perform your procedure. To find the right doctor for you, ask for referrals from friends, family, and your personal physician, then set up consultations with the most likely candidates.

R is for rhinoplasty – the proverbial nose job. Rhinoplasty can be done for both therapeutic (to improve breathing in a damaged nose) and cosmetic (to improve the shape of the nose to bring it into harmonious balance with the rest of the face) reasons.

S is for scars, which you should expect from any surgical procedure that requires incisions. Plastic surgeons take care that the scars are as unobtrusive as possible by hiding them in natural body creases, hairlines, or within the features being treated.

T is for tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty. Whether you've dropped a lot of weight, had one or more children, or just want to trade in your sagging abdomen for a taut tummy, abdominoplasty is the surgery that can get the job done.

U is for understanding all you need to know about your procedure, from medical to psychological to emotional aspects. That's the best way to have realistic expectations about what it can do for you.

V is for vein therapy for varicose and spider veins. These dilated blood vessels can be treated with sclerotherapy, which involves injecting a solution directly into the vessel, causing it to swell, stick together, collapse, and fade.

W is for water. Drink plenty of it during recovery to stay well hydrated and to promote healing.

X is for X-rays, the first step in almost any type of reconstructive plastic surgery.

Y is for youthful – need we say more?

Z is for zits. Acne is the bane of teens and adults alike. There are now many products, both over-the-counter and prescription, that can help get breakouts under control, and there are noninvasive treatments to deal with the scars it leaves behind.