It is a popular notion that plastic surgery is all about beautifying faces for the elite who can afford it. The word 'plastic' experts feel has a lot to do with the misconception. There are many who believe that plastic surgeons use literal plastic to modify faces, which is just not true!
Let's have a better understanding of the term by digging into the history of its name. The term 'plastic surgery' takes its lineage from the Greek word 'Plastikos', which means to form or to mould. The name came into existence since the surgeons who practised this field of surgery moulded the tissues to make them more functional and aesthetic. They broadly divided the discipline into reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.
Today is marked as World Plastic Surgery day, which was earlier celebrated as National Plastic Surgery day in India. The decision to make this day international was passed this Tuesday. The Association of Plastic Surgeons of India (APSI) held a meeting with the Presidents of plastic associations of several countries organised by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The presidents of all national associations agreed to celebrate July 15 as World Plastic Surgery day.
Dr.(Col.) Vijay Langer, 53, a senior plastic and cosmetic surgeon was in the Indian army for 28 years and took premature retirement three and half years back. He is now into private practice in Delhi.
"As a young general surgeon in the army, I used to receive a lot of cases of hand injuries and was fascinated by my results using reconstructive surgery. My super speciality days at the Armed Forces Medical College treating soldiers broadened my horizons and made me the surgeon that I am today", explains Dr Langer.
Dr Langer has operated on many successful surgeries from saving a baby with 65% burns, curing a lady from vitiligo to saving a life threatened by an electric burn.
"There are so many cases that I can talk about but precisely, there is one patient who comes to my mind. He had advanced cancer of the mouth and his lower jaw had to be removed. We reconstructed that part with a 15-hour long surgery wherein the lower jaw was painstakingly and meticulously reconstructed with his fibula, the outer lower leg bone, and the artery, the vein was repaired with stitches thinner than the hair, under four times magnification", reminisced Dr. Langer.
He also talked about a lady who had undergone bariatric surgery for obesity which led to her weight dipping by 50 kg. However, her body had sagged everywhere because of this massive weight loss. This led to a skin infection and that took a mental toll on her. Dr Langer did a belt lipectomy, which is done to remove the loose skin and fat around the waist or beltline. The woman recovered and she is doing well.
'Plastic Surgery is not just for the elite'
Langer explains that there are several cases of cleft lips or microtia which plastic surgery can treat. The surgery discipline is neither elite nor only for enhancing facial beauty, he explains.
"Most people feel that plastic surgery is for the rich, actors and public figures. That is not true. Reconstructive surgery is a much bigger arm of plastic surgery than cosmetic surgery and includes wounds and trauma. Indeed, the plastic surgeon should be involved in every accident trauma wound management right from the start. After treatment, scars also need to be treated by plastic surgeons in various ways. Everyone has the right to look and feel normal. Hence, even a reconstructed patient will also want to look and feel as normal as possible," adds Dr Langer.
"Furthermore, cosmetic surgery including facial surgery, rhinoplasty, breast and body shaping procedures, are looked down upon by a large section of our society and are taboo. It is where our role in assuring the safety of the surgery comes in," explains Dr Langer.
He further adds, "I realise that a lot of people in India are scared of surgery. It's something in our psyche. The moment the word 'surgery' is uttered it is treated with a scare of the unknown! "
Dr Langer aims to train and develop young plastic surgeons so that they can grow and improve the quality of health for all human beings across the world. India gave plastic surgery to the world and now it is celebrated across the globe!