Modern surgery has developed to such an extent that the body of knowledge and technical skills required have led to surgeons specialising in particular areas, usually an anatomical area of the body or occasionally in a particular technique or type of patient.
Plastic surgery has two main components: reconstructive plastic surgery which is all about restoring function and appearance to the human body after illness or accident and aesthetic (often called “cosmetic”) plastic surgery, which is primarily to change the appearance from choice. Unlike most surgical specialties that are defined by an anatomical area, plastic surgery is defined by the surgical techniques that are carried out.
Reconstructive procedures are the mainstay of nearly all plastic surgeons’ work: covering all aspects of wound healing and reconstruction after congenital, acquired and traumatic problems, with aesthetic surgery playing a smaller but important part in their working week.
Most consultants will specialise in a particular area, although nearly all take part in on-call rota dealing with emergency admissions. Plastic surgeons have a busy emergency workload of soft tissue and limb injuries as well as burns. Emergency plastic surgery also supports the work of other surgeons, dealing with complex wounds from accidents or after other surgical procedures.
Due to the breadth and application of plastic surgery, these surgeons work closely with a very wide wider range of teams from other specialties. Much reconstructive work is required following major operations and it is the refinement of plastic surgical techniques that have made some other areas of surgery possible. Surgical oncologists, ENT and maxillofacial surgeons all rely on the reconstructive techniques developed by plastic surgeons.