The History of Plastic Surgery

Every story has a beginning, even plastic surgery.  Some trace the beginnings of plastic surgery to ancient Egypt or India, or to the sixteenth century “father of modern plastic surgery,” Gasparo Tagliacozzi, who wrote about ways to repair facial lacerations from duels or noses lost to the syphilis epidemic with rudimentary skin grafts.  However plastic surgery was not seriously pursued as a legitimate branch of medical science until World War One (WWI).  Trench warfare meant heads and necks were more vulnerable, and pilots and passengers in new and dangerous airplanes often suffered unprecedented serious facial injuries such as shattered jaws, dismembered noses, and large skull wounds.  As a result, plastic surgery was suddenly thrust into the limelight and ever since surgeons have continuously experimented and striven to innovate the techniques commonly practiced today.

1910: Dr. Hippolyte Morestin plays a prominent role in WWI plastic surgery training, administering the French army’s plastic surgery treatment at the Val-de-Grace Military Hospital.

1910: Dr. Vilray Blair publishes innovative techniques on skin grafting. He is instrumental in establishing several university and military training facilities dedicated to plastic surgery before and after WWI.

1910-1919: Dr. Varaztad Kazanjian, a founding father of modern plastic surgery, pioneers numerous maxillofacial surgical techniques during WWI, dramatically increasing the stature of the burgeoning field of plastic surgery.

1924: Dr. John Davis establishes the first formal training program and fellowship in plastic surgery at Johns Hopkins. He is also appointed as the first professor of plastic surgery in the United States.

1931: Drs. Maliniac and Gustave Aufricht found what will become The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) “to advance quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery.”

1940-1945: During WWII nine military plastic surgery centers are created within the United States to better manage the specialized work required to treat facial trauma and burns caused by trench warfare.

1940-1949: Dr. Sterling Bunnell successfully incorporates aspects of general, orthopedic and plastic surgery into treating hand injuries. The next generation of plastic surgeons builds on the technique, firmly establishing hand surgery as an important part of plastic surgery.

1943: Dr. Alma Dean Morani becomes the first female plastic surgeon.

1950-1959: Cleft lip and cleft palate procedures revolutionize the treatment of facial deformities and create new lives for hundreds of thousands of patients.

1960-1969: Dr. Joseph Murray and Dr. Paul Tessier (the “Father of Craniofacial Surgery”) develop new advances in craniofacial surgery.  Dr. Tessier’s technique of exposing more facial bones makes it easier to move pieces of the skull with minimal post-operative complications and becomes the new standard.

1962: Dr. Thomas Cronin unveils the first silicone breast implant.

1970-1979: Under the tutelage of Dr. Joseph Jurkiewicz, surgeons at Emory University develop new techniques involving combination skin/muscle flaps which greatly expand the capabilities of plastic surgeons offering both reconstructive and cosmetic patients more desirable results.

1980-1989: Dr. Carl Hartrampf, co-founder of Atlanta Plastic Surgery, develops the TRAM flap technique for reconstructive breast surgery

1982: The American Society of Plastic Surgeons sends a blue-ribbon panel to France to investigate the safety and efficacy of new “lipolysis” techniques for fat removal. Later that year, after safety concerns have been met, liposuction is introduced to patients in the US.

1996: American Society of Plastic Surgeons launches the Breast Reconstruction Advocacy Project (BRAP) in an effort to drive legislation requiring insurance companies to cover post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.

1998: President Clinton signs legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of reconstructive breast surgery after mastectomy.

2000-2009: The endoscope, a fiberoptic tool used by orthopedic and other surgeons, in introduced into the plastic surgery specialty to reduce scarring and recovery time.

2000-2009: Body contouring is introduced to assist patients with removal and tightening of excess skin after massive weight loss.

2005: The world’s first partial face transplant surgery takes place in France.

2008: A German medical team, headed by Dr. Christoph Hoehnke, performs the first double arm transplant.  The man, 54, was given the arms of a 19 year old.

2010: The world’s first full face transplant is performed in Spain by a team of 30 surgeons headed by Dr. Joan Pere Barret.  The patient, identified only as “Oscar,” was expected to likely regain up to 90% of his facial functions.

Plastic surgeons today continue to push the boundaries of their industry, researching new dermal fillers that last longer and new lasers that add “energy” into the skin. They explore the potential of science and technology as a method of body rejuvenation in more ways than before. Without the imagination of plastic surgeons and their patients over the ages, plastic surgery would not be the phenomena it is today.

If you are interested in a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure performed by one of our board-certified plastic surgeons or are interested in scheduling a consultation contact us today.  For the latest plastic surgery news, follow Atlanta Plastic Surgery P.C. on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for the latest news.