According to statistics from the America Society of Plastic Surgeons almost eight million reconstructive procedures were performed by plastic surgeons in 2008. Reconstructive surgery helps patients of all ages and types - whether it's a child with a birth defect, a young adult injured in an accident, or an older adult with a problem caused by aging.
The goals of reconstructive surgery differ from those of cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery is performed on abnormal structures of the body, caused by birth defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma or injury, infection, tumors, or disease. It is generally performed to improve function, but may also be done to approximate a normal appearance.
Cosmetic surgery is performed to reshape normal structures of the body to improve the patient's appearance and self-esteem. Although no amount of surgery can achieve "perfection," modern treatment options allow plastic surgeons to achieve improvements in form and function thought to be impossible 10 years ago.
There are two basic categories of patients: those who have congenital deformities, otherwise known as birth defects, and those with developmental deformities, acquired as a result of accident, infection, disease, or in some cases, aging. Some common examples of congenital abnormalities are birthmarks; cleft-lip and palate deformities; hand deformities such as syndactyly (webbed fingers), or extra or absent fingers; and abnormal breast development.
Burn wounds, lacerations, growths, and aging problems are considered acquired deformities. In some cases, patients may find that a procedure commonly thought to be aesthetic in nature may be performed to achieve a reconstructive goal. For example, some older adults with redundant or drooping eyelid skin blocking their field of vision might have eyelid surgery. Or an adult whose face has an asymmetrical look because of paralysis might have a balancing facelift. Although appearance is enhanced, the main goal of the surgery is to restore function.
Large, sagging breasts are one example of a deformity that develops as a result of genetics, hormonal changes, or disease. Breast reduction, or reduction mammaplasty, is the reconstructive procedure designed to give a woman smaller, more comfortable breasts in proportion with the rest of her body.
In another case, a young child might have reconstructive otoplasty (outer-ear surgery) to correct overly-large or deformed ears. Usually, health insurance policies will consider the cost of reconstructive surgery a covered expense. Check with your carrier to make sure you're covered and to see if there are any limitations on the type of surgery you're planning. Work with your doctor to get pre-authorization from the insurer for the procedure.