Reconstructive plastic surgery is performed to correct functional impairments caused by burns; traumatic injuries, such as facial bone fractures and breaks; congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palates or cleft lips; developmental abnormalities; infection and disease; and cancer or tumors. Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually performed to improve function, but it may be done to approximate a normal appearance.
The most common reconstructive procedures are tumor removal, laceration repair, scar repair, hand surgery, and breast reduction. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of reconstructive breast reductions for women increased in 2007 by 2 percent from the year before. Breast reduction in men also increased in 2007 by 7 percent. Some other common reconstructive surgical procedures include breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, cleft lip and palate surgery, contracture surgery for burn survivors, and creating a new outer ear when one is congenitally absent.
Plastic surgeons use microsurgery to transfer tissue for coverage of a defect when no local tissue is available. Free flaps of skin, muscle, bone, fat, or a combination may be removed from the body, moved to another site on the body, and reconnected to a blood supply by suturing arteries and veins as small as 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter.