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What is reconstructive plastic surgery?

Reconstructive surgery is perhaps best viewed as a collection of surgical techniques which restores form and function after congenital malformations, trauma and cancer. This encompasses most disease processes treated with surgery.

Our surgical techniques range from simple skin grafts which can actually save a life in a burns patient, to complex free tissue transfers, where the skin, muscle, bone or a combination of these tissues, are disconnected from their original blood supply and reconnected to a new blood supply in the area where they are needed.

Common examples of reconstructive plastic surgery are for:

  1. Congenital defects, are repair of cleft, lip and palate, the separation of fingers if still fused at birth, the creation of a new thumb for children born without thumbs from their index finger or from a toe and the re-animation of the face in children born with facial palsy.
  2. Trauma, consist of all burns: the immediate lifesaving treatment and the release of burns contractures later; all trauma which involves skin, bones, muscle, tendons, ligaments, and nerves which needs replacing, reconnecting or covering.
  3. Cancer, includes all reconstructions after ablative cancer surgery, whether it is to regain function as in sarcoma surgery, or form as after any cancer involving the face.

Plastic reconstructive surgeons have contact with every other medical speciality: we close and reconstruct the defects other surgeons necessarily leave behind when they remove cancer or fix broken bones and we manage the complications of medical disease. We reduce the damage from extravasations of chemotherapy administered intravenously by the oncologists, we manage the bleeds in the skin in haematological patients, the wound break downs for our neurosurgeons, we take care of the pressure sore patients for the geriatricians and so on.

Everyone probably comes into contact with a reconstructive plastic surgeon once in their life, perhaps without knowing it.