Anaesthesia and Cosmetic Surgery In Focus

Cosmetic surgery is often thought as an industry rather than a surgical speciality.

Documentations of cosmetic surgery can be traced as far back as Ancient Egypt, however it wasn’t until 1815 that the first major plastic surgery was performed in the Western world.

Joseph Constantine Carpue spent 20 years in India studying the rhinoplasty techniques that local physicians had been practising for hundreds of years. Although Carpue might have broken new ground at the time, it took nearly a hundred years and a major global conflict for cosmetic surgery to take its next major step forward.

Sir Harold Gillies, a New Zealand-born otolaryngologist, is considered to be the modern father of plastic surgery. Working in London during World War I, Gillies was able to pioneer several new cosmetic surgery techniques to help soldiers suffering from disfiguring facial injuries. Gillies’ first reported success story is thought to be a facial flap surgery on a sailor injured during the Battle of Jutland.

Walter Yeo (pictured, left) was injured whilst manning the guns aboard the HMS Warspite, he suffered severe facial injuries including the loss of his upper and lower eyelids. Although Yeo was unfortunate in Battle he was lucky enough to receive the first skin flap surgery from Gillies; after 2 years of testing and surgery he was returned to active duty and eventually lived to the age of seventy.

Flash forward to today and cosmetic surgeries are more associated with body image and celebrity lifestyles than war heroes. Problems related to anaesthesia have more often than not captured the public’s attention in the last few years. Both Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers, both of whom were somewhat notorious for their brazen use of cosmetic surgery, died due to overdoses of propofol and this has fed into the growing suspicion of the use of the use of general anaesthetics.

The umbrella term of cosmetic surgery is a large one and encompasses far more than just the voluntary procedures thousands undergo each year to change their appearance.

The technical definition of cosmetic surgery is the speciality involving the restoration, reconstruction or alteration of human body. So, whilst procedures such as breast reduction surgery and liposuctions are still common place in the UK (despite these kinds of procedures dropping in popularity over the last two years), it’s important to remember that many cosmetic surgeries take place as a result of a prior existing condition.

As cosmetic surgeries so often involve incisions that require aggressive action on the part of the surgeon, it’s commonplace for the patient to be put under general anaesthetic. It’s not uncommon for patients to feel somewhat uneasy before going under general anaesthetic; these initial fears can be related to any number of things including: a presumption of an allergic reaction and the patient’s fear that they will not wake up again.

Despite these fears it’s crucial to remember that complications from general anaesthetics are rare in the UK, occurring in less than 1 in 10,000 cases – any issues that do occur are usually as a result of the history of the patient.

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