Although plastic surgery is commonly thought of as being along the lines of procedures such as nose jobs or face lifts, this is far from the reality. Take the case of Harry Berger for example. When taxi driver Derek Bird shot into a crowded hotel in Cumbria last June, Mr Berger was among those shot. Because he was hit at close range, the damage to his body was extensive. He was hit in the hand and tricep. He also completely lost his bicep in addition to the arteries and nerves surrounding it. Plastic surgery techniques have been practiced in war zones such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and the Falklands and innovations in these techniques have enabled surgeons to perform miracles.
Within hours, surgeons were able to transplant veins from different parts of Mr Berger’s body to replace those that were extensively damaged. A few days afterward, doctors removed a section of muscle that ran between his hip and armpit and reconstructed his tricep and bicep muscles. A couple of months later, Mr Berger’s nerves were replaced.
Before the war in Vietnam, those with injuries to the arteries or veins that were as extensive as Mr Bergers would have most likely lost their limbs. What basically happens is that if you cut off a limb’s blood supply, you don’t have much more than a few hours to repair it. The reason that Vietnam was so different was that it was the first time that helicopters were deployed in battle. This meant that those who were wounded could be helped by surgeons in a matter of hours. Every new procedure that had been discovered this way continued to be practiced and expanded meticulously for every war afterwards.
The types of techniques that plastic surgeons use actually have their origins in operations used during World War I. Due to the intense trench warfare, field medics saw hoards of facial wounds. What essentially happened was that soldiers would look above trenches and get hit in the face by shrapnel, bullets or other types of debris. It goes without saying that those with mutilated faces would need new techniques to repair their injuries. It was a surgeon named Harold Gillies who discovered the procedures that enabled others to reconstruct facial features. These same procedures eventually evolved into the same modern cosmetic surgeries that everyone knows about today.