Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview

What is reconstructive plastic surgery?

Reconstructive plastic surgery is done to correct facial and body abnormalities caused by birth defects, injury, disease, or aging. Usually, the goal of reconstructive plastic surgery is to improve body function. But reconstructive plastic surgery may also be done to create a more normal appearance and improve self-esteem (this may also be called cosmetic surgery). Some types of plastic surgery may be reconstructive, cosmetic, or both. For instance, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) may be done to improve how your eyes look. But it can also be done to fix eyelids that are drooping severely and blocking vision. Abnormal structures of the body may result from:

  • Injury

  • Infection

  • Developmental abnormalities

  • Birth defects

  • Disease

  • Tumors

Who are candidates for reconstructive plastic surgery?

Generally, 2 types of people have reconstructive plastic surgery:

  • People with birth defects, including cleft lip, head and facial problems, or hand deformities

  • People with deformities, such as from an accident, infection, disease, or aging

Possible complications linked to reconstructive plastic surgery

Any type of surgery carries some risk. People differ in their anatomy and how well they heal. Depending on the type of surgery you have and your overall health, some complications and risks linked to reconstructive plastic surgery may include:

  • Infection

  • Excessive bleeding

  • Bruising

  • Trouble with wound healing

  • Anesthesia problems

  • Surgery problems

Risk of complications may increase if you:

  • Smoke

  • Have connective-tissue damage

  • Have skin damage from radiation therapy

  • Have decreased circulation at the surgery site

  • Have HIV

  • Have a weakened immune system

  • Have a poor diet

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure. You may need to have several surgeries done in several stages.

How to get ready for reconstructive plastic surgery

Discuss with your surgeon what you can expect on the day of the procedure or surgery. If you smoke, you may be asked to quit before surgery. Smoking can delay healing. Other things to consider are:

  • Can you drive yourself to and from surgery?

  • Will you need certain medical equipment at home after your surgery?

  • Will you need someone to help care for you at home?

  • Will you need someone to care for children or pets?

  • Will you need to be on a special diet before or after surgery?

  • How long until you can return to your full function?

Online Medical Reviewer: David Lickstein MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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