We think of facial reconstruction surgery as something that is relatively new and modern, and while several advancements have been made in recent years, the procedures we know today actually go all the way back to the Civil War. These early procedures used during a truly bleak time in our history actually laid the framework for modern plastic surgery.
The First PhotoDocumented Facial Reconstruction Patient
The Civil War left many soldiers disfigured. One such soldier, and the first documented facial reconstruction patient, was Private Carleton Burgan. Burgan’s life was forever changed when the mercury pills he was prescribed to combat a case of pneumonia lead to facial gangrene, which spread from his tongue to his soft-palate and cheek.
Eventually the infection spread to his right eye, leading to the removal of his right cheekbone to halt the life-threatening spread of gangrene. Disfigured and traumatized after the surgery, Burgan turned to City Hospital surgeon Dr. Gurdon Buck, now considered the father of facial reconstruction surgery.
Buck was the first to document before and after photographs of a reconstruction surgery, and it is through him that we have an idea of the capabilities of surgeons of this era. Because of the doctor’s intervention, Private Burgan, after several surgeries, was able to go on to live a relatively normal life.
The Foundation of Modern Facial Reconstruction
The techniques used by Dr. Buck formed the building blocks of the surgical techniques used in modern day facial reconstruction surgery. The 20th century actually saw many advancements in facial reconstruction techniques. Dr. Harold Gillies made significant advancements in jaw reconstruction and replacement in the First World War, while Dr. Archibald McIndoe, Gillies’ cousin, pioneered reconstruction of hand and, more extensively, facial tissue damaged by burns. reconstruction and replacement in the First World War, while Dr. Archibald McIndoe, Gillies’ cousin, pioneered reconstruction of hand and, more extensively, facial tissue damaged by burns.
Various advancements over the years, and from all parts of the world, have led to the facial reconstruction techniques available today, and certainly we can now do things that Dr. Buck would be astounded at.
3-D Computer Imaging for Facial Reconstruction
Continuing with the trend of evolving technology, Dr. William J. Binder, considered as one of the founders of modern facial contouring, was the first to use 3-D computer imaging to develop facial implants for both aesthetic and reconstructive procedures. With the use of this technology, Dr. Binder can capture the minute details of a patient’s face and transpose those details into the implants, creating natural-looking and subtle results. In fact, these techniques are currently implemented by plastic surgeons around the world.
As a leading surgeon who thinks in terms of 3-Dimensional concepts, Dr. Binder is always on the forefront of technology. Stay up to date with his blog for intriguing insight into the field of plastic surgery and facial reconstruction.