Part of what we do at The Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery involves treating and repairing facial traumas. Trauma to the delicate face area always requires an extra level of care, precision and skill in order to yield the best results. Our team is thoroughly trained in providing emergency care and reconstructive treatments to patients dealing with facial trauma.
Treating facial trauma requires a high level of skill and thorough training in order to properly reconstruct the delicate components of the face. When a facial trauma happens to someone it can wreak havoc on their everyday life and affect not only how they function, but how they feel too. For years, facial reconstruction surgery has been a critical tool in restoring the lives of people that have been affected by a facial trauma.
With all of the intricacies associated with facial reconstruction surgery you may think that this is a modern form of surgery. Many people are surprised to learn that plastic surgery and facial reconstruction surgery are not exactly new concepts. Surprisingly, forms of plastic surgery and facial reconstruction surgery have been around since as early as the 1400s! How was facial reconstruction surgery developed and how has it changed over the centuries? Keep reading to find out!
The First Forms
Plastic surgery got its start in the 1400s by mainly focusing on nose reconstructions. The early forms of nose reconstruction surgery were obviously very primitive compared to the techniques used today. We’ll spare you the details, but the process basically involved creating a model of the new nose out of leather or parchment, using flesh from the arm for reconstruction and spending over a week with your arm held in place to your head to allow the new nose to heal.
While this process sounds frightening and unbelievable, it was considered to be very advanced during its time. By the 1500s this reconstructive technique was popular among surgeons all over Europe.
Advancements Continue During the Renaissance
Although reconstructive surgery had a surprisingly early start in the 1400s, additional advancements came at a slower rate over the next couple of centuries. It wasn’t just plastic surgery that wasn’t advancing though, as most types of medicine were at a stand still when it came to progressing.
During the remainder of the Renaissance period, interest in science gave way to religion and less focus was put on advancements in the medical field, especially related to surgery. In fact, at one point, surgery in any form was prohibited by some religions. Progress was also slowed by the lack of hygiene standards that threatened the health of patients undergoing procedures.
One kind of technique did see a resurgence though, but it wasn’t exactly considered new. The skin graft allowed the field of plastic surgery to move forward in a big way during this time. European surgeons actually borrowed a technique for skin grafting that was recorded in an ancient Indian text that dated back to the 8th century. The technique’s mention in the book centered around how to graft skin for nose reconstruction and once adopted by European surgeons became known as the ‘Indian Method’.
As hygiene practices became better understood and more commonplace, science began once again moving forward. The progression of science has always been closely linked to the progression of medicine, so it’s no surprise that this resulted in safer and more effective surgical techniques as well. Another minor advancement that was made during this time was the development of a procedure to repair a cleft lip.
The next major advancements in plastic and reconstructive surgery did not pick up again until the 20th century. It was unfortunately during the times of war when many soldiers experienced facial trauma and other disfigurements that would make reconstructive surgery necessary.
The modern weaponry of the time was having a devastating effect on soldiers and the traumatic injuries that were caused, bringing a heightened sense of awareness to the field of reconstructive surgery. For the first time in history the majority of reconstructive surgeries that were needed were to address traumatic injuries rather than birth defects. The need for skilled reconstructive surgeons became so overwhelming that many of Europe’s most skilled surgeons dedicated themselves and their practices to solely focus on restoring soldiers during this time.
Another critical impact occurred due to the devastating injuries of World War I and that was the realization of the influence someone’s appearance could have on their life, wellbeing and opportunities for success. It was this realization and the desire to restore soldiers’ appearance and function to normal that big leaps were made in reconstructive surgery techniques.
There is a deeply emotional response that occurs when someone’s face is extremely altered and damaged by an injury. It was during this time that surgeons began to develop a deeper understanding of the emotional reactions that take place when someone’s face is injured and the major positive impact restoring their face has on their wellbeing. Skin grafting techniques were also further developed, giving surgeons greater ability to treat a wider range of traumas. It was also during this time that reconstructive surgery became a much more established and respected aspect of the medical world.
During this time other important advancements were made that helped to support greater surgical innovations. A more thorough understanding of infection prevention and anesthesia meant that surgeons could attempt much more complex procedures and the risk to patients became lower over time.
The history of facial reconstruction surgery may surprise you, especially when you consider how long these advancements have been in the making. Although the practice itself has undergone many changes over the centuries, the reason behind it has largely remained the same. The advancements that have been underway since the early Renaissance period have allowed us to help patients through facial reconstruction surgery. Whether it is to restore a sense of normalcy after a traumatic injury or to correct a birth defect, facial reconstruction surgery remains one of the most impactful forms of surgery.
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