Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: plastic surgery from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Surgical speciality concerned with the repair of congenital defects and the reconstruction of tissues damaged by disease or injury, including burns. If a procedure is undertaken solely for reasons of appearance, for example, the removal of bags under the eyes or a double chin, it is called cosmetic surgery.


Summary Article: plastic surgery
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

surgical repair of congenital or acquired deformities and the restoration of contour to improve the appearance and function of tissue defects. Development of this specialized branch of surgery received impetus from the need to repair gross deformities sustained in World War I. By the grafting of tissue or the use of artificial materials such as silicone, some remarkable restorations have become possible. Severe burns and the removal of fairly extensive skin cancers leave scars that must be covered by skin grafts; breast reconstruction after mastectomy is another application.

In addition to correcting a disfigurement, plastic surgery is often needed to restore vital movement and function of tissues that have been destroyed. It is also performed for purely cosmetic purposes, such as improving the shape of a nose, bringing outstanding ears closer to the head, or lifting the skin to erase wrinkles, and the term cosmetic surgery is often used to refer to such surgical procedures. Modern plastic surgeons often employ CAT scans to produce computer-generated images that are used to plan or simulate complex reconstructive surgeries, and 3D printers have been used to create implants for such surgeries.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles


Full text Article plastic surgery
Collins Dictionary of Medicine

Any surgical procedure designed to repair or reconstruct injured, diseased or malformed tissue so as to restore normal appearance and function....

Full text Article Surgery, Plastic and Reconstructive
Encyclopedia of 20th Century Technology

As early as 1500 BC, surgeons in India used leaves to rebuild the amputated noses of criminals. By the Renaissance, Tagliacozzi devised a flap...

Full text Article plastic surgery
The Royal Society of Medicine Health Encyclopedia

The branch of surgery concerned with repair and restoration of defects of the skin and the underlying tissue, whether present from birth...

See more from Credo