Frequently Asked Questions About Reconstructive Surgery
The difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery lies in the purpose of the surgery. Cosmetic surgery is typically an elective procedure performed to improve a person’s appearance, whereas reconstructive surgery is usually performed for functional reasons to alleviate disease or improve the health or function of the body. Reconstructive surgery is often performed out of medical necessity.
Reconstructive surgery is typically performed to improve function and often to approximate a normal appearance. Sometimes the difference between cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery is a bit unclear. A surgery like eyelid surgery may be considered cosmetic if it is being performed to improve the appearance of aging eyelids, but it may also be considered reconstructive surgery if improving sagging eyelids also improves the field of vision. Below are common examples of reconstructive surgery:
- Breast Reconstruction (following mastectomy)
- Breast Reduction
- Burn Care
- Eyelid Surgery (when improving the field of vision)
- Hand Surgery
- Laceration Repair
- Reconstructive Rhinoplasty (when improving the nasal air flow)
- Scar Revision
- Tumor Removal
Because reconstructive surgery procedures are typically medically necessary, they generally provide health benefits. However, reconstructive surgery can also help to improve or eliminate physical abnormalities to improve the appearance or approximate a normal appearance, which in turn can boost self-esteem and confidence.
Reconstructive surgery patients are generally born with an undesirable condition or have developed an abnormality due to accident, disease or even age. Examples of congenital conditions include a cleft lip or cleft palate and webbed or extra fingers. As with all surgery, any patient considering reconstructive surgery should fully understand the procedure and have realistic expectations for the outcome.
There are risks with any surgery. The specific risks will depend on the specific procedure being performed. In general, potential risks may include swelling, bruising, bleeding, infection, poor would healing, and adverse anesthesia reaction.
Recovery times are different for different procedures and different patients. One to two weeks of healing time is common for many reconstructive surgery procedures. Some patients are able to return to their normal activities right away while others will not be able to get back to normal activities for several weeks. In some cases, the final results may not be evident for several months.
Scarring is inevitable with any surgery that involves incisions. Plastic surgeons have specialized training in techniques designed to minimize and camouflage scars for minimal visibility.
Insurance coverage is usually available in full or part for reconstructive surgery procedure. It’s important to check with your individual provider as coverage can vary from insurer to insurer and in cases where a procedure is both cosmetic and reconstructive.