The history of plastic surgery

The part of surgery called aesthetical plastic surgery, which focuses on improving the appearance of the patient, has a long history. Here you can read a short chronological summary.

600 BC
In India one has found Indian texts in Hindu that describe procedures for reconstructing noses, ears and lips. Plastic surgery thus has ancestry as far back as 2 600 years ago. Who would have thought that?

One had already by this time tried to correct women’s breasts. The first breast enlargement procedure in modern time is performed this year. The surgeon, called Czerny, used the woman’s own fatty tissue to correct her asymmetrical breasts.

New attempts at correcting women’s breasts were tried by injecting organic substances. Dr Gersuny proposed paraffin, his successors suggested among others, bees wax and vegetable oil. These types of injections were unsafe and forbidden in the 1960’s due to the risks/problems.

Modern plastic surgery was learnt mainly after the first and second world war. British, French and American physicians worked together in teams during the first world war and found new methods to restore the face of injured soldiers.

After a period of studies it is shown that paraffin injections cause infections and hardening in the breasts. These procedures are therefore stopped.

Fanny Brice, a famous American-Jewish comedienne, undergoes nose surgery, hoping to be offered a broader spectrum of roles.

New York City Daily Mirror has a “Homely Girl Contest” and the winner won cosmetic surgery.

Rudolf Valentino’s older brother undergoes within a year, as advised by the film company’s directors, nine (9!) nose surgeries in order to achieve a “nose the camera likes”.

The psychologist Alfred Adler dies, but his theories surrounding inferiority complex live on, plastic surgeons use his theory to justify their profession.

The plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies speaks with a younger colleague who is considering a specialist discipline. Sir Gillies says: “It is futile! There are already four plastic surgeons in England and there is no room for any more”. Even the best can be wrong sometimes!

Plastic surgeons begin to see the future in people’s vanity. Earlier, during the interwar period, plastic surgeons where reluctant towards pure cosmetic surgery.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery is established with the objective of setting the standard for the profession.

The plastic surgeon John Pangham alters Marilyn Monroe’s face and in the beginning of the 1950’s he is also to have taken care of her breasts.

One begins to surgically insert synthetic sponge in order to enlarge the breasts. But what looked good to begin with quickly deteriorated; the implants shrank and hardened.

It now becomes popular among topless dancers in San Fransisco and Los Angeles to inject silicone into their breasts.

Alarming reports: One becomes afraid that the silicone injections may eventually lead to grave complications, chronic inflammations etc

The idea to suck out fat with a cannula is described by the Italian surgeons Arpad and Fischer. During the 60-70-80’s the interest for cosmetic surgery has grown, perhaps due to the discovery of silicone as a substance for implants and liposuction as a technique to improve the bodily contours.

The risks of silicone implants were to be eliminated with the discovery of polyurethane foam. 10 years later, when 100 000 Americans have acquired such implants, it is found that the foam can dissolve and produce a carcinogenic substance in the body.

Dow Corning, one of the largest manufacturers of breast implants in the USA, is sued and forced to pay 3,2 billion dollars to 170 000 women.

During the filming of “The Bonfire of the Vanities ” Melanie Griffith is struck by vanity and enlarges her breasts. One must therefore resew her entire wardrobe.

In the USA 39 000 people of Asian descent undergo cosmetic surgery in order to acquire western looking eyelids.

Breast implants containing oil from soybeans are launched in Europe. In 1999 these disappear from the market. The implants contain substances that can become poisonous when absorbed by the body.

The actress Katie “Jordan” acquires gigantic breasts hoping to secure more attention, leading to more assignments.

The American Institute of Medicine publishes a 400 page report that states that silicone breast implants do not cause any serious diseases.

The Brava Breast Enhancement and Shaping System is released to the market. It looks like a bra with two hard plastic cups and silicone edging. The air is sucked out and a vacuum occurs which is meant to increase the breast tissue. The product is not received as well as one had hoped and disappears more or less completely from the market.

Q-Med develops the product Macrolane for smaller breast enlargements. The clinical trial begins in October 2002. The product is intended to be injected directly into the breast tissue and the field of application to be both medical, such as filling out the breasts after surgery, and aesthetical.