Summary: Plastic surgery procedures are generally broken down into two separate categories: aesthetic and reconstructive. This separation is simultaneously important and unfortunate. It’s important so that all across the country, from Los Angeles to Minneapolis reconstructive plastic surgery can maintain an increased amount of respect in the medical field. But it’s unfortunate, because aesthetic plastic surgery tends to be trivialized—even though, largely, both aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery have the same basic mission: helping people live their lives in bodies that feel comfortable.

The Reputation of Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery has a great reputation for making people look younger, sexier, more fabulous. Indeed, when most people think of plastic surgery, they’re really thinking about aesthetic plastic surgery—the breast augmentations and facelifts and liposuctions of the world. And because of this, plastic surgery can sometimes be dismissed as frivolous or superficial. But there’s another side to plastic surgery—and while it’s basically serving to accomplish the same mission, this other side of plastic surgery seems to get a little more wide acceptance among the general public. That side is known as reconstructive plastic surgery.

Earlier this month, the Inquisitr posted an article about a young girl who was attacked by a dog. And before you let your Pit Bull stereotypes take over in your imagination, it was a lab that allegedly attacked her. In fact, according to her family, the Pit Bull in this story was actually a hero. In this story, as the little girl was bitten (on the face) by the lab, the girl’s family dog—a Pit Bull—leaped over the fence and attacked the lab, rescuing the little girl. It’s a pretty compelling story, and for all intents and purposes the story turned out well—the girl is alive and well. She does, however, have significant scarring to her face (where the lab bit her).

Reconstructive Plastic Surgery to the Rescue

This is where reconstructive surgery comes in. Basically, reconstructive plastic surgery will try to eliminate as much of the scarring and muscle damage as possible, and try to make sure that the little girl’s face as closely resembles its former appearance as possible. This will help the girl live as normal a life as possible—she won’t have to spend her entire life explaining the scars from the dog bites, in other words, and she’ll be able to see full and normally. This type of surgery is really life-changing and an incredibly important part of the recovery process, as it allows patients to full reclaim their lives once their bodies have finished healing.

And while the distinction between aesthetic plastic surgery and reconstructive plastic surgery is a useful one, and while we like to talk about it as two different sides to the same coin, it’s worth noting that in many ways the two are really carrying out the same mission. I think part the emphasis on the difference comes because aesthetic plastic surgery used to sell itself as a way of self-improvement: look better, feel better, look more normal, that kind of thing. The rhetoric of modern aesthetic plastic surgery revolves instead around the formation of the “real” self. In other words, around finding your real self and making sure that real self is what’s depicted on the exterior.

The Real Self Rhetoric

This new rhetoric is much more in line with what plastic surgery actually aims to do—even aesthetic plastic surgery. For example, in most cases, an aesthetic plastic surgeon will not encourage a woman to get a breast augmentation up to a size that does not work with her frame. Likewise, a plastic surgeon would be unlikely to advise a face lift that stretches the skin beyond a tasteful limit, or makes the skin look plastic. After all, it’s about emphasizing the beauty of the patient, rather than creating a kind of artificial beauty. In most cases, aesthetic plastic surgeons will gage how realistic the desired outcome of the procedure might be and steer patients towards a technique that facilitates not only the patient’s image of themselves but also what is realistically possible.

Helping You Find Your Real Self

This isn’t at the end of the day, terribly different from reconstructive surgery. When it comes to aesthetic plastic surgery, the patient feels as though nature has not given him or her a body that fits what’s on the inside—so it’s about matching the inside and the outside of the person. When it comes to reconstructive surgery, the goal is very similar, only it isn’t due to nature and aging, it’s due to an outside force—a dog attack, for example.

Many of the techniques of these procedures are used across boundaries, meaning that as aesthetic plastic surgery improves so too does reconstructive plastic surgery—and vice versa. This is an example of how, while it is useful to separate these two areas of practices, they actually have a similar ethos and a similar mission. These missions are complimentary, and the results of each help out the other. In other words, plastic surgery is a field of quite a bit of potential, and it just keeps getting better—no matter what your reason for wanting to get it. So if you’re interested in plastic surgery, you should talk to your surgeon today.

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