Cosmetic or plastic surgery has been around a long time, ever since 800BC in fact, when the practice was ascribed to Sushruta a somewhat mysterious physician from India. Written in Sanskrit, the “father of surgery’s” texts were translated in Arabic, then travelled to Europe where it came to the attention of British surgeons in 1794 who were interested in rhinoplasties (or nose jobs as they are now known), the procedure of which is described here.
Early techniques in reconstructive surgery were used mainly to address physical impairments such as burns, or facial disfigurement caused by war, whereas today people choose surgery to cosmetically enhance their features or even reduce them (women sometimes have their breasts reduced to alleviate pressure on their back or neck).
A British sailor, Walter Yeo, is widely regarded as the first person to receive plastic surgery after suffering horrific facial injuries during the Battle of Jutland in the First World War. Thanks to New Zealand born surgeon Sir Harold Gillies who performed an early version of skin graft to create a “skin flap” (or mask) to cover the affected area, Yeo was able to enjoy the love of a wife and two daughters until his death in 1960.
Fast forward to 2013 and cosmetic surgery is now used in a wholly different manner – even for men. Recent figures reveal that in the previous year there was a 38% rise in the number of men attending surgery to have their “man boobs” flattened, with that figure set to rise this year. Though this percentage may seem high, professional surgeons like Sydney’s Dr. Jeremy Hunt has actually been performing this procedure for over 10 years.
Known officially as Gynaecomastia, it is a condition that is caused by imbalance of the hormones and is estimated to affect between 40-60% of the male population in the UK. The problem is the fatty tissue that causes Gynaecomastia in the breasts is resistant to diet or exercise, thus prompting many men to seek out a cosmetic surgeon.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the gender fence, women have been faced with the PIP scandal in recent times to put the whole question of breast implants into disarray. The British government is even drafting a bill to ensure such episodes cannot happen again. This has been necessitated because of the discovery that around 47,000 UK women were thought to have received breast implants made of industrial silicone rather than medical-grade filler.
The health scare prompted a government review which aims to tackle some serious questions such as the regulation and safety of cosmetic products, to ensure that there is enhanced after-surgery care for patients, that people considering cosmetic surgery are better informed and not pressured to go through with the procedure, and also that surgeons are suitably qualified and experienced.
This last point prompted Professor James Frame of Chelmsford to open the world’s first plastic surgery degree course at Anglia Ruskin University where he hopes to train surgeons to a new standard that will put an end to sham practises and botched operations. Professor Frame even blames surgeons for the PIP scandal claiming that if they had been more skilled they would have been more aware of the cosmetic products being used during breast implant surgery. It will not be an easy course, the professor remarked; one slip and the students fail.
Cosmetic surgery is rarely available on the National Health Service (NHS) these days (though a special group will consider it in some cases if they believe it will improve a patients’ life considerably) while reconstructive plastic surgery still is. This means anyone considering a nose job or breast implant or “man boob” reduction needs to consider carefully the implications, risks and of course the costs.
The NHS advises that anyone considering surgery should be clear in their minds as to why they want it and should definitely consult their GP for advice.
Cometic Surgery 2013, the UK facts was written by James Gray, a University and NCTJ graduate who specialises in health and beauty.
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