Definition and Overview

Reconstructive surgery consultation is an appointment with a plastic surgeon and is usually conducted before and after the surgical procedure.

Reconstructive surgery is quite different from cosmetic surgery, although they are interrelated in so many ways. The former is a surgical procedure with the objective of improving or restoring the function of a damaged body part while cosmetic surgery focuses mainly on improving the appearance. Both are categorized under plastic surgery, which also includes hand surgery, management of disorders, and trauma surgery.

In some cases, both may be performed depending on the patient’s condition and goals. For example, breast cancer patients who may have lost their breast tissues to mastectomy can undergo reconstructive surgery that creates new breasts. Further, the surgeon may improve the appearance of new breasts, making sure they don’t appear saggy or heavier that they become disproportionate with the rest of the patient’s body.

Reconstructive surgery is a complex procedure that only those who have many years of experience in the field and are certified by the board can perform it. To be a reconstructive surgeon, the doctor needs to complete at least four years of medical school followed by at least five years of surgical residency, wherein he’s exposed to different types of surgery. He then specializes in plastic surgery for about three years and proceeds by specializing in reconstructive surgery for another five years.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Based on the 2008 report of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, at least eight million people all over the world had already benefited from reconstructive surgery. These include:

  • Diseased patients – Certain types of diseases can cause deformity in different parts of the body. One of the most common examples is cancer. Cancer can develop into tumors, which may have to be removed to avoid the spread of the disease. As a result, the surgeon may remove a part or the entire affected body part like the breasts, arms, or legs. Skin cancer, for instance, can be severe enough that it leaves many pockmarks on the skin as the cancerous tissues are removed.

  • Injured patients – Injury can also lead to significant deformity. This is especially true with burns wherein the skin loses its elasticity and begins to atrophy. The purpose of reconstructive surgery in this case is to bring about new skin into the affected area and regain the much-needed elasticity to allow the muscles to move. The most common technique used by surgeons is called grafting, in which a portion of healthy skin from another part of the body is removed and then attached to the damaged area.

  • People with congenital defects – Reconstructive surgery is also helpful for people who were born with physical deformities. There are a number of reconstructive surgical procedures that can be performed even on children and newborn. A good example is a procedure performed to correct cleft palate, which may cause speech impediments later in life if not corrected as soon as possible.


Reconstructive surgery offers many benefits to patients. It can:

  • Improve their self-confidence
  • Increase their movement
  • Allow them to regain a semblance of normal life
  • Help them function more independently
  • Help them manage their condition more effectively

How Does the Procedure Work?

A reconstructive surgery consultation can be divided into two stages: before and after the surgery.

In the pre-surgical phase, a primary physician or another specialist may recommend the patient to a reconstructive surgeon. A good example is when an oncologist (cancer specialist) refers a breast cancer patient to a reconstructive surgeon to have the breast reconstructed following a mastectomy. The patient then sets up a meeting with the surgeon either in a clinic or a hospital.

During the appointment, the surgeon reviews the patient’s medical record and general health condition. It’s also common among clinics these days to offer a mental health evaluation to ensure that the patient is in a good state of mind to go through and accept the possible outcome of the procedure.

The surgeon then assesses whether the patient is suitable for the reconstructive surgery. If he is, the surgeon will proceed by discussing the techniques that will be used to achieve the goal as well as the preparations needed prior to the surgery. Other details that will be discussed include costs, risks and complications of the procedure, and post-surgical care. If the patient is not suitable for reconstructive surgery, the surgeon may offer guidelines on how to make him eligible in the future.

In the post-surgical phase, the main concern of the surgeon is the result of the surgical procedure. During the first 24 hours, he monitors the vital signs and function of the treated body part and the rest of the body. He also provides clear instructions related to post-surgical care including medication intake, wound dressing, and infection management. The surgeon will perform a series of follow-ups, which may last for months to a year, depending on how the patient copes with the operation.

Possible Risks and Complications

The consultation can be used to assess whether the patient needs or is eligible to go through the procedure. This means that the surgeon may decide to postpone or deny the patient reconstructive surgery. Many factors can affect the decision, including the patient’s health, state of mind, expectations, the extent of the diseased or injured area, age, level of necessity, and the number of times the patient has undergone plastic surgery.

Consultations can also be tough on the mental health of the patient. Many of them struggle showing their deformity since they are afraid of being ridiculed or criticized by their doctor. Thus, it’s important for any patient to choose a surgeon who’s not only capable of carrying out the procedure but it also polite and easy to deal with.

Reference

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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