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How Early Plastic Surgery Procedures Looked Like

Historical Facts | May 13, 2016

Plastic surgery skills were first mastered by Sir Harold Gillies, a talented surgeon. Gillies wanted to help soldiers who’ve been disfigured fighting the World War I battles in the front lines.

Here are some of the earliest plastic surgeries that were carried out:

This New Yorker lost his nose in an accident.
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Bellevue Hospital's Dr. E. Hart switched out the empty space where his nose would be with one of his fingers in 1880.
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The results weren't that subtle.
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This WWI veteran lost the bottom half of his face in battle.
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He underwent one of the world's first "tube pedicles."

It's where they trick skin from one area of your body into growing towards another area via a flap of skin stretched between them like a tube.
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Once he had grown more flesh on his face, they rebuilt the bottom part of his mouth with a metal frame.
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The results look remarkable from the side.
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Although slightly less convincing from the front.
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Carlton Burgan fought in Maryland's Purnell Legion during the Civil War. Mercury poisoning resulted in the amputation of part of his face.
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Pioneering plastic surgeon Gurdon Buck did the best he could in the reconstruction.
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British soldier William Spreckley lost his nose in battle during the Great War. This is him being discharged after the first round of a tube pedicle skin graft pulling flesh down to his nose area.
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Dr. Harold Gillies at London's Queen's Hospital operated on William Spreckley, as well as 11,000 more disfigured soldiers during the war.
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Many of the techniques were experimental, but Gillies team became more proficient at their work—resulting in success stories like Spreckley.
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Spreckley's story at the end of WWI is a far cry from the earlier experiments at Queen's Hospital, like sailor Walter Yeo who came into the hospital looking like this.
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Yeo required a huge facial reconstruction. First they grafted skin onto the lost areas via the tube pedicle method.
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As it healed, it looked a bit like a mask.
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In the end, Yeo got his face...though it was a very Phantom of the Opera version of one.
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Other soldiers not lucky enough to be taken to one of the early hospitals sussing out plastic surgery or not deemed deformed enough to warrant the then-controversial procedures, were offered a quick alternative: a mask. This young soldier lost part of his mouth and nose in the war.
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They gave him an early version of a Groucho mask that replaced part of his nose and covered up the mouth wounds with a large mustache.
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Many of the masks used were the work of Red Cross leader Anna Coleman. She built the reconstruction masks for this soldier's rhinoplasty.
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And she created the rather convincing illusion of full faces with her then-revolutionary masking techniques.
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Even difficult cases like this gentleman soldier's missing eye were fixable with a bit of creativity on her part.
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It's better than an eye-patch. And stop-gapped the facial reconstruction for most soldiers until procedures improved and were more accessible to the injured parties.
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H/T Sickchirpse

Tags: early plastic surgery

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