Why plastic surgery is used 

Plastic surgery can be used to correct defects present from birth or to repair skin and tissue damage caused by disease, illness or injury.

There are many different situations where plastic surgery may be needed, and a variety of surgical procedures can be used.

Conditions present from birth

Plastic surgery can be used to correct defects that are present at birth (congenital), including:

  • cleft lip and palate – a birth defect affecting the top lip and the roof of the mouth (palate)
  • birthmarks, including port wine stains and haemangiomas – these are caused by malformations of capillaries, veins and arteries
  • craniosynostosis – a rare problem with the skull that causes a baby to be born with an abnormally shaped head
  • hypospadias – the opening of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis) is on the underside of the penis

Conditions that develop later in life

Plastic surgery can also be used to repair and reconstruct damaged tissue caused by problems that develop later in life, such as:

  • cancer – to repair the skin or improve appearance after the removal of cancerous tissue from places such as the breast or face
  • trauma – to repair damage to tissue caused by things such as severe fractures that break the skin, or a severe wound (for example, from an animal bite)
  • infection – to remove dead tissue and repair the surrounding area
  • extensive burns – to repair damaged skin and improve its appearance
  • other conditions – such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, venous ulcers, pressure ulcers and facial palsy (such as Bell's palsy)


As well as repairing the physical damage caused by injury and illness, reconstructive surgery can also improve a person’s confidence, self-esteem and overall quality of life.

Read more about how plastic surgery is performed.

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015