The Long History of Plastic Surgery

Thanks to TV, movies, and the internet, plastic surgery has been glamorized. And thanks to its incredible success, it’s been popularized. But how did plastic surgery get its start anyway? It’s a fairly new medicine field, right? Actually, it goes back a lot further than one would expect.

Plastic Surgery in the Ancient World

Chances are the first plastic surgery performed was a nose job in ancient Egypt. There are a few papyri that record the methods used to repair broken noses. For example, the Egyptians used reeds to hold the nasal canals open as the nose healed after reconstructive surgery. Therefore, we know that the first rhinoplasties were performed around 3000-2500 BC.

But ancient Egyptians aren’t the only ones who used plastic surgery centuries before it became popular in the modern world. For example, the Romans valued physical beauty and the human body more than almost anything. Just think about their beautiful sculptures. Surprisingly, however, almost all their anatomical knowledge they got from the Greeks. That did not stop them from performing reconstructive surgeries on injured and deformed people—especially gladiators.

However, perhaps the most important ancient plastic surgery culture is that from India. Indian plastic surgery got its start by at least 800 BC, and by 600 BC there were significant medical texts published about. it. In fact, these early Indian methods were first studied by the British as interest in plastic surgery started to grow in the late 18th Century. Doctors carried these methods over into the Western world, where the first major plastic surgery was performed in 1815.

Transitioning from Obscurity into Popularity

These early Western plastic surgeries came after centuries of plastic surgery and its study being discouraged by the Pope. However, even this interest in plastic surgery didn’t really take off until WWI. The trench warfare caused many injuries that required plastic and reconstructive surgery for full healing.

In the 1920s and 30s, plastic surgery started to be taught and regulated. Soon it skyrocketed into the industry that we know today. By the 1990s, there were over a million reconstructive procedures and 1 million cosmetic procedures being done each year. So whatever procedure you choose, know that you are in safe hands and are following in a long history of plastic surgery patients.

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