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Why Do They Call it Plastic Surgery?

August 15, 2017 / by Dr. Brian Dorner

If I asked you why plastic surgery is called “plastic”, how would you answer? Most people tell me, “Breast implants are made of plastic, right?”.

Although that’s how we think of modern plastic surgery, breast implants were not formally invented until 1961.

The name actually comes from the origins of the word “plastic” which was around long before plastic was created.

Before the first man-made plastic, Parkesine, was created in 1855, the word plastic was used to describe something that could be molded or shaped. The origins for this stretch back to the Greek word “plastikos” which means to grow or form.


Plastic surgery traces its roots back thousands of years to ancient India (6th century BC.) where a prominent physician and pioneer of surgery named Sushruta performed some of the earliest rhinoplasties.

why do they call it plastic surgery

We then fast forward to Italy in the mid 1500’s where Gaspare Tagliacozzi, widely considered the “father of plastic surgery”, was born.

He is famous in particular for his nasal reconstruction (rhinoplasty) method and his book “On the Surgery of Mutilation by Grafting”—an admittedly unappealing title but an influential work nonetheless. In this book, he had a great quote which laid the foundation for our modern understanding of the practice of plastic surgery:


“We restore, rebuild, and make whole those parts which nature hath given, but which fortune has taken away. Not so much that it may delight the eye, but that it might buoy up the spirit, and help the mind of the afflicted.”


Advancing another 250 years or so finally brings us to the debut of the term “plastic surgery” which was first coined in 1798 by Pierre Default of Greece.

The definition and sophistication of this science has grown steadily ever since. Today plastic surgery encompasses a plethora of cosmetic/aesthetic (elective) procedures, reconstructive procedures, and even some treatments for cancers/diseases.

It’s fascinating to think that these elective procedures were being performed over 8000 years ago – before the advent of anesthesia. Today we have many technological advances to help mold and shape your body. If there is something that makes you self-conscious about yourself, there is likely something that can be done to improve it. Call use today if there is something you would like to change! (614) 336-9000.

Contact us to schedule an appointment!