An overview of plastic and cosmetic surgery in the UK

An overview of plastic and cosmetic surgery in the UK

As there are a wide variety of surgical procedures available, it’s easy to confuse the different terms that specific surgical techniques refer to. The most common is the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery.

While they may appear similar practices, closer inspection finds that the two are, in fact, very different.

A common reason why the two medical disciplines are often confused is that both surgical techniques focus on changing the appearance of particular areas of the body. However, this is where the similarities end. Below is a guide to clarify the major differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery and shed light on the surgical techniques used in each.

What Is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery is a standard procedure used to reconstruct and repair both missing or damaged tissue/skin. You are likely to undergo plastic surgery if you are aiming to restore the function and appearance of tissue/skin to help you achieve a natural look. Plastic surgery is reconstructive in nature, meaning that this form of surgery is primarily to repair, not to enhance. Some common examples of plastic surgery include:

  • Repairing damage from an accident, such as skin grafts to treat extensive burns
  • Abnormalities from birth, such as correcting cleft palates
  • Any areas of skin that have been damaged by the removal of cancerous tissue

Plastic surgery is complex, and you should always make sure that an experienced, reputable surgeon carries it out, like our team at The McIndoe Centre.

What is reconstructive surgery?

Reconstructive surgery is essentially the mainstay of a plastic surgeon’s work. Many people are often confused by the three terms; plastic, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery but let this serve as a general rule:

The vast majority of plastic surgery procedures in the UK are reconstructive.

Reconstructive surgery is used to treat a wide range of conditions and focuses on repairing an affected area of the patient’s body in order to restore function. Similar to plastic surgery, it is performed to reconstruct bodily structures affected by defects at birth, trauma, injuries, disease, infections and tumours.

Why Do People Get Plastic Surgery?

There are many medical conditions that a patient is exposed to throughout their lives. Sometimes, a health issue may cause problems/defects in the body. To help patients restore their natural look, they may turn to plastic surgery for help. Plastic surgery can be used to repair physical birth defects such as birthmarks, cleft lip and palate, and webbed fingers.

Plastic surgery is also commonly used to treat the aftermath of diseases like breast cancer. Breast reconstruction is a form of plastic surgery that would restructure the shape, size, and contours of the patients' breasts. The surgery is also used to help people who have experienced traumatic injuries like severe burns. Plastic surgery can be life-changing for many people, which is why so many people turn to this type of treatment to help them restore their confidence.

Plastic surgery has helped transform millions of lives for the better and with new medical discoveries being made every day, the future of plastic surgery looks bright.

What Is Cosmetic Surgery?

If a patient is looking to change their appearance for cosmetic reasons, they will often turn to cosmetic surgery. You would not undergo this type of surgery if you needed to change your appearance for medical reasons. With this surgery, the patient chooses to undergo treatment because they wish to enhance their physical appearance - rather than necessarily needing the treatment to support their health. Additionally, cosmetic surgery is elective, meaning that patients are able to pinpoint the areas of their body they’d like to ‘improve’ in order to achieve their desired results.

There are both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Some that you may be familiar with are:

Cosmetic surgery continues to be a popular form of treatment throughout the UK, with roughly around 15,400 procedures performed last year.

Why Do People Get Cosmetic Surgery?

There are many reasons why people turn to cosmetic surgery. They often see this form of surgery as a positive solution to a personal problem that they face. One of the most common reasons is down to ageing. As we age, our appearance noticeably changes. For some, this can knock their confidence, and they turn to cosmetic surgery to help them regain it and restore their self-esteem.

Other people have specific features that they are looking to change. They may feel like they don’t like the shape of their nose, or their breasts are not the right shape. Cosmetic surgery can help people enhance these features - to achieve their desired look. This can be anything from breast augmentation surgery to thigh liposuction.

Some patients have features that make everyday life difficult. For instance, some women struggle with limited clothes options due to the size of their breasts or excess skin that is still there from weight loss or pregnancy. They may turn to cosmetic surgery to help them overcome this.

Cosmetic surgery for men

While cosmetic surgery is extremely popular among women, men are recognising the benefits as well. Procedures such as otoplasty, blepharoplasty and rhinoplasty are becoming increasingly popular among men. The stigma of plastic surgery for men is slowly being lifted and with celebrities such as Wayne Rooney and James Nesbitt proudly supporting and discussing their surgical experiences, more men are beginning to feel confident regarding their decision to undergo cosmetic procedures.

Patient Testimonial

"During my school life I got up to nearly 19 stone in weight at a very young age, I took it upon myself to lose weight and I’m now around 12 stone, unfortunately, this has caused me to have a lot of excess skin, and has left me with fully formed boobs."

Haydn had the surgery to remove his "man boobs" with Mr Dheansa and is a changed young man, brimming with confidence and looking forward to life.

Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery

Both surgeries share some similarities. For example, both plastic and cosmetic surgery can enhance/repair someone's appearance, giving them a boost in their confidence levels. Both surgeries require patients to go under the knife. However, it is important to note that there are plenty of cosmetic procedures out there that are non-surgical and less invasive. There is also another difference between the two. Plastic surgery can be offered on the NHS free of charge. However, the same cannot be said for cosmetic surgery.

When we compare the two, the main difference comes down to the aims of the surgery. Cosmetic surgery is used if someone wants to change their appearance for cosmetic reasons, while plastic surgery is used more for medical purposes. At The McIndoe Centre, we offer a range of plastic and cosmetic treatments. We work with you to find the best course of action to target your personal problems.

Benefits of Plastic Surgery

Although the thought of plastic surgery can feel pretty daunting, the results that it gives can be genuinely life-changing, and it has helped thousands of people throughout the UK transform their lives for the better. There are several reasons why a patient may wish to undergo this surgery; with the long list of benefits, it is clear to see why. Take a look at some of the top benefits listed below:

  • Improves quality of life
  • Enhances confidence
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Provides pain relief
  • Improves mental health
  • Improves physical health
  • Relieves pain

Plastic surgery is able to remodel areas of the affected skin to disguise any disfigurement caused by burns or scars. Not only will this surgery grant better mobility to the affected areas but it has the ability to drastically improve the appearance of a patient’s skin. This will also help them live every day with more confidence.

Benefits of Cosmetic Surgery

Like plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery also has an impressive list of benefits, which is why so many people turn to this treatment to help them enhance their lives for the better. Each patient will have different reasons why they wish to undergo this surgery. However, with the long list of benefits on offer, it is clear to see why these treatments cater to the masses. Take a look at some of the benefits associated with this surgery below:

  • Improves mental health
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Enhances confidence
  • Easily accessible
  • Better physical health
  • Positive outlook

Patient Testimonial

"I’m naturally confident but was becoming increasingly conscious of my upper lids. When lockdown hit, and I found myself looking at my reflection several hours a day on non-stop Zoom meetings, I knew something had to be done."

It was in her early forties that journalist Annika Purdey first noticed her eyelids were beginning to droop, making her look permanently tired. She arranged a consultation with Mr Nick Parkhouse who explained the eyelid surgery procedure in detail.

Who performs plastic and cosmetic surgery?

Plastic surgeons can perform both types of surgery (cosmetic and plastic). Although, many cosmetic surgeons will not be able to perform plastic surgery. The reason for this is because the two are so different and plastic surgery requires a different (usually higher) qualification level. Cosmetic surgeons, however, do not necessarily have to undertake such extensive medical training. They do, however, still have to be highly qualified in order to perform surgery.

When considering cosmetic surgery, it is absolutely essential that you check your chosen surgeon’s qualifications. As cosmetic surgery is becoming more popular, there are a number of under-qualified surgeons operating within the business, many with just a basic medical degree.

Plastic And Cosmetic Surgery Prices

The price of both cosmetic and plastic surgery differs depending on the treatment you are after. Some forms of plastic surgery, like reconstructive surgery, are available on the NHS free of charge. However, it is important to note the local clinical commissioning groups determine this throughout the country.

Cosmetic surgery is not available on the NHS, and the price will be determined by the type of procedure you have, the clinic you choose and the surgeon performing your treatment. At The McIndoe Centre, we offer payment plans to help you fund your treatment. You can borrow between £350 to £15,000 subject to status. Our experienced consultants will discuss these options with you to help you find the best course of action.

Choosing The Best Cosmetic Surgeon

Whether you are looking to get a plastic - or cosmetic procedure, you should always do your research beforehand. Both surgeries can completely transform your appearance, so you want to make sure you are open to this change.

You should ensure that the clinic is CQC registered and the surgeons are GMC qualified and belong to either BAAPS or BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Aesthetic Surgeons). Our consultants have been handpicked because of their surgical skills and experience within the fields of plastic and reconstructive surgery. It is also recommended that you book a consultation to ask any questions you may have before going ahead with the procedure.

At The McIndoe Centre, we are proud to say we are a CQC registered clinic with a team of highly qualified surgeons. We take pride in delivering the highest standard of surgical care and results that last a lifetime. We offer a range of cosmetic and plastic surgery options and would love to be part of your journey. Don’t hesitate to book a consultation via our website to speak to one of your friendly consultants. We look forward to hearing from you.

The history of plastic and cosmetic surgery 

Plastic and cosmetic surgery has seen astonishing growth and transformation over the last 60 years. Of course, plastic and cosmetic surgery dates back as far as 2000 B.C. However, it was only during the 1940s when plastic surgery had become a trusted alternative to living with physical disfigurements.

The history of Sir Archibald McIndoe

Born in New Zealand but trained in the UK, Sir Archibald McIndoe has become a household name in the world of plastic surgery. McIndoe went on to specialise in the treatment of burns victims and became the consultant surgeon to the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.

Although plastic surgery had established itself in the First World War, only three experienced plastic surgeons were based in Britain once the Second World War broke out in 1939. McIndoe was based in East Grinstead during this time and wanted his hospital to specialise and treat airmans burn which was caused when a plane’s fuel tank exploded, usually causing severe burns to the pilots. The most vulnerable areas were the pilot’s hands and face, as these were often left exposed. McIndoe successfully treated several hundred airman, giving them new faces and hands, with many being able to fly once again.

These patients became known as the ‘Guinea Pig Club’, because much of the work McIndoe performed was experimental and had never been done before. As these surgical techniques were new, operations were often painful. Some patients’ surgeries also took several years before their hands and faces were completely reconstructed.

McIndoe made extra effort to inform the staff and wider community alike not to treat the pilots any differently. East Grinstead became known as the town ‘that did not stare’ and the pilots integrated back into ‘normal’ life.

The development of plastic surgery throughout time

Since then, plastic surgery has experienced tremendous progress. One year after the Second World War saw the publication of the first medical journal for plastic surgery. The journal increased communication about new developments in the medical and surgical community. Plastic surgery began to grow so quickly and was becoming more accepted and trusted by the public and medical professionals alike.

Since then, virtually all types of plastic and cosmetic surgery have undergone considerable technological advancements. During the mid-2000s, the plastic and cosmetic surgery market rocketed as the media became more aware of its presence and shows such as Extreme Makeover and Nip/Tuck gave plastic and cosmetic surgery a global platform.

Today, modern technology continues to expand the horizons of plastic surgery and outdated surgical techniques are now becoming a thing of the past. The advancement of technology has not only yielded greater results, but has seen drastic improvements in the safety and efficiency of surgical techniques. From its earliest beginnings to its most recent developments, the world and history of plastic surgery continues to evolve.

News and articles

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