“Why is it called Plastic Surgery?” That is one of the most common questions that I get as a plastic surgeon. Whether a patient is coming in for a cosmetic procedure or a reconstructive procedure they all want to know the origin of the term. Although occasionally we use some plastic like materials in our procedures, the term Plastic Surgery predates the now ubiquitous substance. In fact, plastic is really an adjective to describe the type of surgery not the materials used.
The English word plastic comes from the Latin word plasticus which (like many things Roman) was borrowed from the Greek word plastikos. The Greek word has a further root plastos, or molded, which comes from the original Greek verb plassein, to mold. Now, the dictionary will tell us that when plastic is used as an adjective it means “capable of being shaped or formed” or “having the qualities of sculpture; well-formed.” Both of these definitions can be applied to the practice of plastic surgery.
The human body can be damaged by a variety of factors: trauma, cancer, congenital factors and age. The plastic surgeon’s goal is to accurately restore form and function to the human body by molding the available tissues to achieve the desired result.