Plastic Surgery in the 20th Century
In the last post, we discussed the origins of plastic surgery. For this week’s post, we’ll focus on a booming period for plastic surgery: the early 20th century. While it was not under the most desirable circumstances with World War I on the horizon, plastic surgery helped restore dignity to those disfigured in battle.
With the result of war, many injured WWI soldiers were left scarred from battle and forced to wear their red badge of courage on their faces. A New Zealand otolaryngologist named Howard Gillies took up the cause to help benefit the soldiers and established a facial injury ward at Cambridge Military Hospital where he performed plastic surgery techniques.
At Cambridge, Gillies and his colleagues did the following:
- Oversaw more than 11,000 surgeries
- Performed a skin graft on the reputed first advanced plastic surgery patient, Walter Yeo, to treat the loss of upper and lower eyelids.
- Gillies’ cousin and pupil developed new techniques for World War II victims
Throughout the century, the remarkable innovation of plastic surgeons continued and spawned new techniques that created the foundations of modern-day procedures.
- French surgeon Paul Tessier created methods to correct craniofacial deformities. Today, many of these techniques are used not only for plastic and maxillofacial surgeries, but also for neurosurgery.
- In 1954, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Murray performed the first successful human kidney transplant on twin brothers. He has been hailed as an international leader in the study of transplantation biology.
- American surgeon Harry Buncke, the father of microsurgery, developed reconstructive microsurgical procedures and helped to launch the practice of replanting amputated digits and extremities beginning in the late 1960s.
- Harvard Medical School alumnus D. Ralph Millard, Jr, who was nominated in 2000 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as one of the 10 “Plastic Surgeons of the Millennium,” is renowned for his innovation in cleft lip and palate surgeries.