Dr Hodgkinson Traces the History of Plastic Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh

Dr Hodgkinson is not only interested in the present and future of plastic surgery as an innovator, lecturer and teacher but also in the history of the discipline.  He understands that all great scientists and thinkers stand on the shoulders of those who came before and if you choose to ignore this you risk not only hubris but missing the pearls of the hard learned lessons of your predecessors and contemporaries.

Whilst recently in Edinburgh Scotland, Dr Hodgkinson visited the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh Library to view their original copies of Vesalius 1555 (the father of anatomy), Tagliocozzi 1597 (the father of plastic surgery) and Ambrose Pare 1575 (the author of the first definitive textbook on surgery).

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Interestingly the history of plastic surgery goes all the way back to 1597 with Gaspare Tagliacozzi in Bologna Italy.  Tagliacozzi is credited with being the father of plastic surgery, having restored noses to those who had lost them through disease or trauma via an innovation called the “tubed flap”.  This flap used the patient’s own tissue from their arm and this tissue was left attached both to the arm and to their head for a number of weeks so that there was an ongoing blood supply to the flap.  During this time, the patient wore a brace to keep their arm elevated in a most awkward position to ensure that the tissues of the flap would not only stay alive but also remain stable before the tissues had “taken” to the face and a new nose could be surgically constructed.  These principals and flaps are still in use today although the patient’s journey has been made less arduous.

Interestingly, the father of modern plastic surgery as a field of specialty medicine is considered, especially in English speaking nations, to be Sir Harold Gillies who was a New Zealand ENT surgeon working in London during World War I.  In responding to the need of soldiers with severe facial injuries he was to devise both procedures and care plans that would revolutionise plastic surgery.

The field has grown and developed much since Gillies with advances in technology and in response to the needs of reconstructive patients and the public’s ever growing desire for aesthetic improvement.  Plastic surgery has a vast and rich history that spans the centuries and the continents and whose history is deeply entwined with the history of science, warfare and social change.

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