Healing from the Outside
Disfigurement after illness or disease can be a painful reminder of the physical, mental and emotional trauma a patient has gone through. It’s an outward symbol of pain and distress that a body has experienced.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeons are uniquely trained to help those men and women by repairing physical signs of disease or illness.
Dr. Arch Miller, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Tulsa Plastic Surgery, says he embraces the role he plays in the healing process.
“The role of the reconstructive surgeon is just getting bigger because the problems we’re facing are bigger, and patients stay alive longer,” he says. “We have to face the challenges of helping these patients. They have good medical care, and now our challenges are to fix and restore form and function.”
Dr. Angelo Cuzalina, a cosmetic surgeon at Tulsa Surgical Arts, regularly performs pro bono work for individuals suffering from disfigurements from birth, like cleft palates, as well as people who may have scarring or aftereffects from previous cosmetic surgeries.
“I had two different women [come to me] recently that had silicon injections in their buttocks but had a problem with it,” Cuzalina says. “What’s happening is you see illegal uses of materials, and the procedure may or may not be done by a doctor. When you’re injecting a large volume, you don’t know where these chemicals are coming from. Often the tissue that’s damaged has to be cut out, and it causes a lot of problems.”
Miller adds that helping those who are in need is a very rewarding experience for surgeons.
“Here’s the thing about reconstructing defects: Women have breast cancer surgery all the time, followed by radiation. The areas get infected, the cancer comes back and we have to remove large parts of their chest wall. So I, in my particular profession, have the ability to move tissue from the tummy or back and rebuild those areas destroyed by radiation and infection. These cases are very rewarding emotionally for me and for everyone around us because we’re doing the right thing; we’re helping someone who needs it badly.”
Top 5 Reconstructive Procedures in 2013
- Tumor removal 4.4 million
- Laceration repair 254,000
- Maxillofacial surgery 199,000
- Scar revision 177,000
- Hand surgery 131,000
Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons