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How Reconstructive Surgery Derived From Indian Sanskrit Texts

Sep 10, 2008
These days if someone wanted to improve their looks permanently all they would need to do is to make time in saving money and applying for cosmetic surgery. Going through a procedure like this will mean preparing for a period and making sure that you are completely certain to go through it. However the term used for corrective or plastic surgery is somewhat misunderstoodd and is a misrepresentation of the true nature of the procedure.

The term plastic surgery comes from the Greek word 'plastikos', which translated in English means 'to mold'. This is an important definition for what plastic surgery is used for, as it literally is about shaping, molding and sculpting the body into the desired shape or look. Historically this procedure was used to heal or improve scars, damages to the face or any other part of the body. This was used purely for medical purposes and not for vanity as it is perceived today.

Reconstructive surgery dates as far back as 700BC in Ancient India and is documented in Ancient Indian Sanskrit texts by the author Sushrata. He had recorded that the reconstruction of earlobes and noses were possible by using other undamaged parts of the body, such as the cheeks or the forehead. This was the main force of punishment and humiliation for Sushratas time, and was quite a common event. The knowledge of otoplasty and rhinoplasty existed in India up until the 18th century.

The Romans were also known for performing plastic surgery, by reconstructing damaged earlobes and repairing minor wounds. However, due to their religious beliefs, they did not approve of dissecting or opening up the human body or any animals. Therefore their knowledge was gained purely from their studying literatures obtained from the ancient Greeks. The Roman physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus had left some influential written documentations of the anatomy, which were both accurate and surprising considering there was very little opportunities to perform surgery.

Remember anaesthesia was not used widely until the mid 19th century, before which all surgery was performed under intense pain and very little efforts to numb the pain sensation. Opium poppies were used during 4200 BC, this was not common in most parts of Europe but were used in places such as Cyprus, India and China. Pharmaceutical anaesthetic was more successful in numbing the tissue, making surgery easier for both the patient and the physicians.

Surgery became more commonplace when anaesthetics was used during the late 19th century, this was also followed by the improved usage of equipment, better sterilisation of tools and treatment of infections using penicillin. Plastic surgery became something more of a widespread knowledge after the first world war, when the first known procedure of skin grafting was performed on a former war officer Walter Yeo, who had suffered severe facial damages. The first pictures were released recently in a bid to track down his ancestry and to uncover the affects of the surgery in his later life.

Since the earlier days of reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery was introduced; this caused the misrepresentation of true plastic surgery as being a purely medical necessity. It was also something that people used to improve the way their nose looked or enhance certain features of their body. Cosmetic surgery is usually completed privately and can be a costly procedure. Reconstructive surgery is usually completed for those with severe damage or wounds to the face, or other major parts of the body.
About the Author
Anna Stenning has studied and researched the history of plastic surgery as this is a procedure which is commonplace and misrepresented.
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