Plastic surgery

Plastic surgery is used to repair and reconstruct missing or damaged tissue and skin.

The main aim of plastic surgery is to restore the function and appearance of tissue and skin so it's as close to normal as possible.

Plastic surgery is different from cosmetic surgery, which is surgery carried out solely to change a person's appearance to achieve what they feel is a more desirable look.

Read more about cosmetic procedures.

When plastic surgery is used

Plastic surgery can be used to repair:

Plastic surgery can often help improve a person's self-esteem, confidence and overall quality of life.

Availability of plastic surgery

Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually carried out free of charge by the NHS. But availability varies around the country and is determined by local integrated care boards (ICBs).

Plastic surgeons have extensive training and belong to professional associations, such as the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).

Check whether a particular surgeon belongs to BAPRAS

Most people are referred to NHS plastic surgeons by their GP or a specialist consultant they see about their condition.

Plastic surgery is also available privately, but it can be very expensive.

It's still a good idea to speak to your GP or specialist first if you're considering private treatment, even if a referral isn't required.

Plastic surgery techniques

Some of the techniques used during plastic surgery are:

As well as these techniques, plastic surgeons also use many other methods, such as:

Read more about how plastic surgery is performed.

Risks of plastic surgery

As with any type of surgery, plastic surgery has associated risks.

The degree of risk depends on the size of the affected area, the surgeon's level of experience, and the overall health of the person having the procedure.

Some procedures carry specific risks, but general risks include:

Contact your surgeon, healthcare team or GP immediately if you have any concerns after surgery, such as unexpected pain, swelling, discharge, or other side effects.

Page last reviewed: 3 August 2021
Next review due: 3 August 2024