The Future of Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Terminology

The art of plastic surgery has a long history dating back almost 4,000 years; however the first plastic surgery performed in North America was a cleft palate operation in 1827 by Dr. John Mettauer. Several years later, World War I began and plastic surgery got a rapid jumpstart. With the advent of more advanced weaponry, soldiers were suffering from severe and unprecedented facial wounds and burns. Scores of medical professionals devoted themselves to developing and utilizing methods to treat these men.

In 1931, plastic surgery got another big boost with the formation of The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASPRS). This groundbreaking organization provided the first ever licensing examination for plastic surgeons and within the next few years numerous other organizations sprang up.

Plastic Surgery is Not Only for the Rich and Famous

Prior to these organizations, it was common knowledge that plastic surgery was used solely to "fix" people with abnormalities or injuries. It was also believed that all "other" plastic surgery was reserved for the rich and famous. However, with the overall cost of plastic surgery decreasing and more and more plastic surgeons being readily available to the general public, this medical specialty field has erupted. It seems as though German philosopher Karl Marx's infamous statement that "history tends to repeat itself" will once again hold true.

It is undeniable that the long history of plastic surgery has come full circle and is once again evolving and growing. This time however, it is not war that will propel this field into the next century but public opinion. What was once considered taboo is now all the rage. From Tara Reid's public display of her botched boob job to The Hills' star Heidi Montag Pratt's ten plastic surgery procedures in a single day; it is evident that this is the wave of the future.

The media bombards us with images of perfection and as a society; we strive to fit this mold that has been built for us.

In fact plastic surgery has become so commonplace that both laymen and medical professionals are constantly developing new terminology. For centuries, this type of medicine was only known as plastic surgery. However, with the advent of the ASPRS and similar organizations, many new terms have been coined. The single most distinct differentiation is between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery.

Plastic Surgery Definition

Plastic surgery is a medical specialty in which a specific body part is surgically corrected to improve or correct the physical form or function. Typically plastic surgery is a medical necessity such as repairing a cleft palate or repairing burned skin.

Cosmetic Surgery Definition

Cosmetic surgery on the other hand is traditionally an optional surgery that is performed to enhance the physical appearance of a person's body. Breast augmentation, liposuction, and rhinoplasty are all examples of cosmetic surgery procedures. Furthermore, the term aesthetic plastic surgery has become a common synonym for cosmetic surgery.

Some cosmetic surgery statistic

A simple survey of the statistics will easily prove how mainstream this has become.

  1. In 2011 Americans spent approximately 10.4 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery. The estimated expense was 11.8 billion in 2008.
  2. Women were responsible for 91% of all cosmetic procedures while men were only responsible for the remaining 9% in 2011.
  3. 40-54 year olds made up the majority of cosmetic procedure in 2011 - 48% of the total.
  4. The most commonly performed cosmetic surgeries are breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, liposuction, and eyelid surgery.
  5. There has been a 197% increase in the amount of cosmetic surgeries performed since 1997.

The question now is; what do these numbers mean? The numbers have proven that more and more people are having plastic surgery. But why? And how will this influx of surgery affect society's attitude towards and language used when talking about plastic surgery?

As of 2011, there has been a 197% increase in the amount of cosmetic surgeries performed since 1997.

Does Media Play a Big Role?

The media bombards us with images of perfection and as a society; we strive to fit this mold that has been built for us. Unfortunately, the only means we have to do this is by turning to cosmetic surgery. Let’s take a moment to examine some of the images that the media portrays. First of all there is the controversial case of Heidi Montag Pratt.

In an in interview with People Magazine, Heidi confessed to having ten different plastic surgery procedures in a single day that included an eyebrow lift, Botox injections in the forehead and mouth area, nose job, chin reduction, neck liposuction, breast augmentation, and ears pinned back. She has been quoted as saying she wanted “sexy ears”—what that means exactly is still a mystery.

However, there is speculation that it will soon become a new catchphrase that will have men and women flooding to the operating table. Her reason for all these risky surgeries: she was teased as a child and therefore had major insecurities about herself. Additionally she wanted to be known as a “blonde bombshell.” Again, another phrase that is subjective in nature and only rectified by going under the knife.

Is Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Here to Stay?

Justified by any means necessary, plastic surgery is pounded into our minds from a very young age as the cool thing to do. But since when do larger breasts, or firmer buttocks, or sexy years equate to improved self-confidence? Isn’t this an attribute that comes from within? Shouldn’t the media portray strong, successful women as opposed to sexy, “perfect” women?

Regardless of personal feelings, the media is the media and plastic surgery is here to stay. Having evolved from plastic surgery to cosmetic surgery to aesthetic surgery, what does the future hold for this ever growing field of medicine?

Evolving Lingo and Terminology

There is no question that the lingo will change and evolve like our attitudes have. In just the short history of plastic surgery the terminology has changed from plastic surgery to cosmetic surgery to aesthetic surgery and nowadays is affectionately referred to as nip/tuck. Modern culture has invented certain slang for plastic surgery, or rather for people who have had plastic surgery.

Furthermore, the term aesthetic plastic surgery has become a common synonym for cosmetic surgery.

For example, after Ashlee Simpson had her infamous nose job, people started referring to this procedure as "The Ashlee." Another example is from the popular movie "Mean Girls" in which there is a group of girls dubbed "The Plastics" because they are known to be fake. Although neither of these terms have really caught on as the new terminology for plastic surgery, it does give a little insight into the future.

Although many of these new slang terms are speculative, it is gradually being supported by many scholars in the field. According to Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, “The future of plastic surgery is limited only by our imagination, creativity, and determination.” Furthermore, renowned doctor and professor at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Dr. Joe Rosen, has been quoted numerous times as saying “in all seriousness that within five years he will be able to graft wings on to a human being's body.” Should this field of medicine every progress to this point, new terms will have to be used. But, what will they be? Maybe hanimals, which could stand for half human half animal?

Sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie but with the rapidly changing attitudes and acceptance of plastic surgery, the sky is the limit. Unfortunately, scholars and laymen can speculate about the terminology until the cows come home but until new procedures are developed and perfected, the lingo will remain pretty consistent. New slang will be coined as the media reports more stories of plastic surgery but the official terminology will stay where it is until new, revolutionary procedures are developed that require a new term. For now, cosmetic/plastic surgery encompasses all elective surgeries to improve appearance.

However, if Dr. Rosen is correct and people will eventually have the option to add extra parts to their bodies, there will have to be new terminology. What it will be is still a mystery.

What do you think is the future of plastic surgery? Use the comment field below.


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