Cosmetic Surgery Glossary
Abdominal Etching -
A type of liposuction which uses a smaller cannula and removes small pockets of fat to reveal muscle contours.
A procedure to reduce the abdominal area by removing excess skin and fat, and tightening the abdominal wall muscle. Also known as a Tummy Tuck.
Adipose Tissue - Connective tissue which stores fat.
Ablation - Removal of surface tissue, for example in the use of ablative laser skin resurfacing, where the laser removes the skin’s epidermis to stimulate the dermis (second layer) to create new cells. In Non-Ablative skin resurfacing, the laser is directed directly to the dermis and bypasses the epidermis, keeping it cool.
Acne Scars -
Scars from acne, a skin condition where excess oil production from the sebaceous glands plugs up the hair follicles. The scars can be deep pits or wavelike in their appearance.
Adrenaline - See Epinephrine.
Age Spots -
Patches of darker coloration that appear after about age 40. They most often appear on skin areas which have had a lot of sun exposure.
Loss of hair, complete or partial.
Use of a drug which blocks the neural transmission of pain sensations. It can be local, administered in an injection to the designated area, or systemic, administered directly into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) line.
The term usually used for local anesthesia.
A health condition that deviates from normal.
The darkened or pink skin area around the nipple.
Arm Contouring -
Use of liposuction to recontour the upper arms.
An injectable filler that contains tiny microspheres in a bovine-derived collagen gel. Used for nasolabial folds and smile lines, and approved for that in 2006 by the FDA.
Asian Blepharoplasty -
Eyelid surgery to give the eyes a more wide-open look. It removes some of the upper eyelid and creates an eyelid fold.
Removal of fluid from the body using suction.
Augmentation Mammaplasty -
See Breast Augmentation.
A material derived from one’s own body and used to correct or enhance another body part. An example would be removing an area of skin, fat, and muscle from the abdomen and using it for a breast mound, in a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. That is known as autologous tissue breast reconstruction.
Belly Button Surgery -
Surgery to reshape the navel, often to recess a protruding navel. Known as umbilicoplasty.
Beta Hydroxy Acid -
An exfoliant found in many skin care products, used for treating sun damage, wrinkles, and blackheads. Also called Salicylic acid.
Bilateral Gynecomastia -
Enlargement of the male breast on both left and right sides.
A wide, elastic bandage used after an abdominoplasty or liposuction to compress the treated area and help prevent swelling.
Blepharoplasty - Eyelid surgery that removes excess skin, fat, and muscle from the eyelids to create a new eye shape. Also called an Eyelid Lift.
The term used for a medical professional who has taken and passed the examinations set by the Board which governs his or her particular field. The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. does this for plastic surgeons. Board Certification is something to check for when choosing your cosmetic surgeon.
Body Recontouring -
Cosmetic surgeries designed to reshape the body according to the patient’s desires and doctor’s recommendations. Examples are Arm Contouring, Abdominoplasty, and Gynecomastia Treatments.
Body Lift -
A combination of several procedures to optimize body recontouring. Typically includes liposuction and abdominoplasty.
An injectable cosmetic form of the botulinum toxin used to smooth forehead lines. It works by blocking nerve impulses to the specific muscle(s) where it is injected, thereby temporarily paralyzing them.
Blepharoplasty - Eyelid surgery which removes excess skin and fat from the eyelids (and sometimes muscle) to give the eye a more youthful openness. Also called an eyelid lift or eye lift.
Surgery to correct sagging of the upper arms. Also called an Arm Lift.
Breast Augmentation -
Surgical breast enlargement by use of a breast implant. Also called Augmentation Mammaplasty and Breast Enhancement.
Breast Implant -
A silicone shell containing either silicone gel or a saline solution. It is implanted beneath the breast tissue and perhaps also beneath the chest muscle, to augment the breast size.
Breast Implant Revision - Additional surgery done to correct an undesired feature or complication after the original breast implant procedure.
Breast Lift -
A surgery to position the breast higher and the nipple and areola higher on the breast. Excess skin is removed. It doesn’t change the breast size, but often makes the breasts look larger, since the droop is removed. Also called Mastopexy.
Breast Reconstruction -
Surgical rebuilding of the breast after a mastectomy.
Breast Reduction -
Surgery to remove unwanted breast tissue and skin, reshape the breasts, and to reposition the nipple and areola to match the new breast shape. Also called Reduction Mammaplasty.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen -
A sun protection cream which blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Brow Lift -
Surgery to raise the eyebrows, smooth the horizontal furrows on the forehead, and smooth the vertical frown lines. Also called a Forehead Lift or Temporal Lift.
Buccal Fat Pad -
Cheek fatty tissue, located above the jawline and next to the corners of the mouth. They are sometimes reduced to give a more contoured look to the face rather than a round look.
Buttocks Augmentation -
A fat grafting procedure, using fat from another area of the body, to increase and enhance the buttocks contour.
Buttock Lift -
Surgery to remove excess fat and skin from the buttock area. It can be combined with liposuction.
Calf Augmentation -
A cosmetic procedure to increase the fullness of the calves with silicone implants. They are inserted behind the knee and positioned beneath the calf muscle.
Camouflage Makeup -
Flesh-colored cream used to cover bruising, redness, small scabs, or other temporary after-effects of skin treatments.
A hollow, flexible tube used in liposuction for removing fatty tissue.
Surgery to correct sagging lower eyelids.
Capsular Contracture -
Tightening of the membrane surrounding a breast implant, which squeezes the implant, hardening it and distorting the breast shape. One of the most common complications of a Breast Augmentation.
Connective tissue which forms around any foreign object in the body.
Surgical removal of a capsule.
Dimpled fat that typically occurs on the hips, thighs and buttocks. There is no sure-fire way to eliminate it, though some plastic surgeons have been experimenting with some techniques. Simple loss of weight does not necessarily eliminate cellulite. Also called “cottage cheese”.
Cheek Augmentation -
Surgery to enlarge and reshape the cheekbones. A cheek implant is positioned near the existing cheekbone.
Chemical Peel -
Use of a chemical solution to remove the top skin cells, stimulating the lower layer (dermis) to produce new, tighter cells. It makes the skin smoother, reducing fine lines, uneven pigmentation, acne scars, and skin growths. Chemical peels can be done to different skin depths and the deeper they penetrate, the longer the recovery time is.
Chin Augmentation -
Surgery to increase the size or prominence of a receding chin. It can be done by moving the chin bone and wiring it into a new position, or by inserting a chin implant. Also called Mentoplasty.
Cleft Lip -
A split top lip which did not fully develop in utero. The palate may also be split. They can be corrected surgically.
Closed Rhinoplasty -
Nose surgery which uses no external incision. It makes small incisions inside the nostrils only. See also Open Rhinoplasty.
A fibrous protein found throughout the body in connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments, as well as in bones and skin. It gives strength and flexibility. Many cosmetic surgeons offer collagen injections to help smooth out wrinkled skin. Injectable collagen can be bovine or from a human donor.
The skin and soft tissue between the nostrils, at the end of the septum. An Open Rhinoplasty makes a small V-shaped incision in the columella.
Computed Tomography Scan -
A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses X-rays and a computer to create cross-section images (“slices”). It is more detailed than a standard X-ray. Abbreviated as CT Scan or CAT Scan. cf Ultrasound.
Existing at birth and acquired while the baby was developing in the uterus. Not transmitted through parental genes. Cf Hereditary.
Connective Tissue -
Natural tissue in the body which is fibrous and strong. Collagen forms a large part of it. It can be loose or dense. Examples are tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
Contour Threads -
Small polypropylene threads used in some types of facelift, as sutures to anchor facial tissue in a higher position.
Distortion and scarring created by a permanent tightening of skin. It may also affect muscles and tendons in the area and sometimes the nerves. It often happens after a severe burn and can impair the person’s mobility. See also Capsular Contracture.
CO2 Laser - An infrared gas laser first developed in 1964. Like all lasers, it is coherent and directional (rather than scattered like a flashlight, for example). It can therefore be very precisely focused on a target. In plastic surgery, it is used for skin resurfacing, wrinkle reduction, and scar treatment. It targets the water both in cells and between them and the water absorbs its light energy. This vaporizes the targeted area and seals the remaining tissue. The laser is pulsed so that it never touches the skin for more than one millisecond at a time, and this prevents burning.
Cosmetic Surgery -
Plastic surgery done to enhance a person’s appearance. In contrast, reconstructive surgery is plastic surgery done for repair work after an accident or to correct an inherited defect.
Pertaining to the skull, the cranium.
Pertaining to the skull and face.
Crows Feet -
Popular name for the fine lines that appear around the eyes as we age. Unprotected exposure to the sun and smoking both contribute to their formation.
Use of liquid nitrogen to freeze tissue before removing it from the body.
Removal of dead tissue in preparation for reconstructive or cosmetic surgery.
Removal of hair.
Removal of the skin’s epidermis to treat raised scars. It has traditionally be done by mechanical means, using a sterilized wire brush or little electric sander, with general anesthesia or twilight anesthesia. More recently it has been done using a CO2 laser or Erbium: YAG laser. This makes it less traumatic and painful, and limits bleeding. See also Microdermabrasion.
A cosmetic surgery technique to remove deep acne scars using a hand-held instrument called a dermatome. A dermatome is also used for skin grafting. Dermatome is also the name for an area of skin which is innervated by a single nerve from a single nerve root in the spinal cord.
Skin inflammation from an allergic reaction or physical contact with an irritating substance. It causes itching and redness.
A medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin problems.
The second skin layer, beneath the epidermis. It contains many structures such as hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands, blood vessels, and nerves. It also contains a matrix of collagen and elastin fibers which forms a support for the skin, keeping it smooth and wrinkle-free. As we age, this matrix starts to deteriorate, a contributing cause for wrinkles. The dermis has two sublayers.
Deviated Septum -
The septum is the tissue wall that divides the nose internally. Sometimes it is not positioned centrally and one side of the nose is wider than the other. This can cause breathing problems at night. It is correctable by surgery.
Diode Laser -
Another name for a semiconductor laser, meaning that it is created using a semiconductor material. Diode lasers are small and use low power. They’re very common and found in such everyday items as CD players and laser printers. In Cosmetic Surgery, they are used to resurface the skin and remove unwanted hair.
Earlobe Reduction -
A short procedure to bring the size of the earlobe to within 25% of the ear’s total length. It can be done as part of a facelift.
Ear Pinning - See Otoplasty.
A term for recurring dermatitis with any of these symptoms: itch, dryness, redness, swelling, flaking, blistering, oozing, crusting, and bleeding. It can be caused by allergies or genetics and can be mild or severe. It often appears first in early childhood.
A protein in the skin’s second layer, the dermis. It interacts with the skin’s collagen to form a supporting matrix of fibers which keeps the skin smooth and elastic.
A surgical instrument consisting of a narrow tube with a light and a lens at its tip. The light is usually directed from an outside source via an optical fiber system and allows the surgeon to see where he’s directing the endoscope. The lens transmits images to an attached computer monitor.
There is a second channel which allows the surgeon to insert medical instruments. Surgery done with an endoscope is called endoscopic surgery and has the advantage of requiring only a small incision. An endoscope also allows for just looking at internal organs as part of a diagnosis or preparation for surgery.
The top skin layer, which has five sub-layers. It is about a half a millimeter thick on the eyelids and one and a half millimeters thick on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. It protects the body against the environment and continually sloughs off dead skin cells which rise up from the dermis, through the epidermal sub-layers to the surface.
A “fight or flight” hormone released from the adrenal glands when the body feels threatened. One of the things it does is to tighten blood vessels. It is an ingredient of the saline solutions injected in a liposuction procedure to reduce bleeding. Also called adrenaline.
Epithelium - A tissue with layers of cells, which lines body cavities and covers the surfaces of body structures. Examples: (a) the outside skin layer (epidermis) is composed of epithelial cells; (b) the eye's cornea (front clear part) has an outside epithelial layer which is peeled back in a flap during laser vision correction; (c) mucous membrane inside the mouth has epithelial cells in its top layer.
Er: YAG laser – Erbium: YAG laser, where YAG stands for Yttrium Aluminium Garnet. Like all lasers, it is named for the materials from which it is generated. This is a solid-state laser (as opposed to a gas laser such as the CO2 laser). It is used in plastic surgery for skin resurfacing, acne scar treatment, and melasma. It is an infrared laser, meaning that its color is beyond the red frequency and invisible to us.
Excimer Laser -
The ultraviolet laser used in a LASIK vision correction. Its light is well-absorbed by body tissues. Rather than cutting, it weakens the molecular bonds on the tissue surface so that the tissue disintegrates and evaporates. This is an example of tissue ablation.
Removal of the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface – the top layer of the epidermis. This gives the skin a fresher look. It can be done mechanically as with scrubs, loofahs, and pumice stones; or chemically as with mild chemical peels such as those using glycolic acid or salicylic acid.
Eyelid Surgery -
Eye Lift -
Eyelid Ptosis -
Drooping eyelids. See Ptosis.
Cosmetic surgery to remove sagging and wrinkles from the lower two thirds of the face and the neck. Also called rhytidectomy. There are several ways of doing a facelift which vary in their types of incision, area treated, and depth of treatment. Some examples are the deep plane facelift, the mid facelift and the mini facelift. Also called Rhytidectomy.
A membrane of connective tissue which envelops body structures such as muscles, organs and bones. There are many in the body, and some can be used in various reconstructive surgeries. Cosmetically, fascia can be used in lip augmentation.
Facial Implants -
Silicone gel pieces which are implanted in the chin or cheeks to give the face better definition.
Fat Injections -
A procedure where fat is withdrawn from one part of the body and injected into another part to create more fullness. It can be done for lip augmentation or to smooth facial lines. The procedure has to be repeated periodically, as the body absorbs the fat.
Flap Surgery -
The creation of a pocket of transplanted skin, to contain a breast implant. Done in breast reconstruction.
Forehead Lift -
See Brow Lift.
General Anesthesia -
Anesthesia which induces unconsciousness. The patient has no awareness of what surgery is being done, feels no pain, and has no memory of the procedure afterwards. It can only be given by a fully-qualified anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, who calibrates the dosage and monitors the patient’s vital signs until normal consciousness returns.
A piece of living tissue transplanted from one body part to another, or from a donor to a patient. It is often used in burn treatments where all layers of the skin have been destroyed. Also used in hair grafting.
Enlarged male breasts. The word is also used incorrectly to refer to gynecomastia treatment.
Hair Follicle -
The hair root, in the skin’s dermal layer (beneath the epidermis). It comprises the enlarged basal part of a hair where it receives nourishment from a tiny blood vessel.
Hair Grafting - Transplantation of hair, with its follicle and attached skin, to another part of the body. Used in treatment of male pattern baldness.
Hereditary - Passed on from parent to child through genes; genetically inherited. cf Congenital.
A birthmark with small blood vessels concentrated together. They often disappear after a few months or years. Also called Strawberry Marks.
A collection of blood beneath the skin or in a body organ.
High-Definition Liposuction -
Liposuction done with a smaller cannula for the purpose of delineating the muscle contours.
A granular substance made from coral which is used in facial enhancement to give more delineation to the bone structure, e.g. the chin and cheek bones.
An injectable filler made from a purified form of hyaluronic acid derived from the combs of specially-bred roosters.
Hyaluronic Acid -
A substance in the body’s connective tissue, helping with cushioning and lubrication. It attracts water. When used for cosmetic skin enhancement it plumps up the skin because of its ability to attract and retain water. It was approved by the FDA in 2004 under the name Restylane® for treatment of facial wrinkles.
Excess pigment in areas of the skin. An example would be age spots. They can be treated with chemical peels, dermabrasion, or microdermabrasion.
Hypertrophic Scar -
Excess scarring tissue that looks raised and red. It does not spread beyond the original wound or incision area. See also Keloid Scar.