Many people think of plastic surgery as a contemporary medical advancement, but the use of surgical procedures to change and enhance appearances actually goes back centuries. Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical procedures known to scientists and anthropologists, with the first known procedure performed in 800 BC.
Rhinoplasty procedures were commonplace throughout early history in both India and Egypt. Within the criminal population, punishment in both countries often included nose amputation or mutilation as a means of marking the offender for life. Sushruta Samhita, an Indian doctor, wrote of restoring a criminal’s nose using two pieces of caster oil plant and forehead skin. This restoration is one of the first detailed records of an early, primitive nose restoration procedure. The practice was continued, mostly restoring the facial deformities of criminals, throughout Roman times until about the first century AD. At this time, rhinoplasty seems to have fallen out of practice.
Helping Injured Soldiers
In 15th and 16th century Italy, rhinoplasty experienced a resurgence, especially in soldiers with facial disfigurement from battle. Gasparo Tagliacozzi, an Italian doctor who lived from 1456 to 1499, kept detailed records of his version of rhinoplasty. He used the bicep muscle to reattach the nose, followed by a graft put on three weeks after the initial procedure. Two weeks after the graft placement, the skin was reattached and reshaped. The procedure continued to grow in popularity but failed to spread to the rest of the continent.
The 18th century saw the spread of rhinoplasty to English-speaking civilizations.
As Britain began to conquer India, ancient texts were discovered and brought back to England. Sushruta Samhitas’ writings were among these artifacts. Having witnessed a rhinoplasty procedure in India, Thomas Cruso and James Findley also brought back tales of the facial enhancement technique. English doctors began practicing the procedure and publishing research findings in medical journals, which were then spread across the English-speaking world.
New Tools Shorten Healing Time
Newer rhinoplasty procedures utilize the most advanced tools and techniques, but the origins of the procedure are still evident in modern plastic surgery practices. Sushruta Samhitas’ writings describe a primitive forehead flap rhinoplasty, which is a technique still in use today. Many of the same or similar tools were used well into the 20th century. Currently new, high-frequency adaptations of these tools are utilized by surgeons to shape the nose and move bones within the nasal structure without breaking them.
With these modern tools and better surgical accommodations, patients are able to heal in comfort and get back to daily life a lot faster than before!