American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Plastic Surgery Glossary


  • Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure, also known as tummy tuck, to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
  • Antihelical fold: A fold that is just inside the rim of the ear.
  • Arborizing veins: Veins that resemble tiny, branch-like shapes in a cartwheel pattern, often seen on the outer thigh.
  • Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
  • Auditory canal: A passage in the ear.
  • Augmentation mammaplasty: Breast enlargement by surgery.


  • Basal cell carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer. Occurs in the epidermis. These growths are often round and pearly or darkly pigmented.
  • Bilateral gynecomastia: A condition of over-developed or enlarged breasts affecting both breasts in men.
  • Biocompatible materials: Synthetic or natural material used in facial implants and designed to function along with living tissue.
  • Blepharoplasty: Eyelid surgery to improve the appearance of upper eyelids, lower eyelids or both.
  • Brachioplasty: A surgical procedure, also known as arm lift, to correct sagging of the upper arms.
  • Breast augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty; breast enlargement by surgery.
  • Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy; surgery to lift the breasts.
  • Breast reconstruction: Breast reconstruction is achieved through several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size following mastectomy.
  • Breast reduction: Reduction of breast size and breast lift by surgery.
  • Brow lift: A surgical procedure to correct a low-positioned or sagging brow. Smoothes furrows across the forehead and between the brows.


  • Cancer: The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.
  • Capsular contracture: A complication of breast implant surgery which occurs when scar tissue that normally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes the implant and becomes firm.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: A condition caused by pressure to the median nerve within the wrist or carpal tunnel causing pain, tingling and numbness.
  • Cheiloplasty: Cleft lip repair surgery.
  • Cheiloschisis: The scientific term for a cleft lip.
  • Chemical peel solutions: Substances that penetrate the skin's surface to soften irregularities in texture and color.
  • Circumferential thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer and mid-thigh.
  • Cleft: A separation of the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth.
  • Cleft lip: The incomplete formation of the upper lip.
  • Cleft palate: The incomplete formation of the roof of the mouth.
  • Collagen: A natural protein used as an injectable filler for soft tissue augmentation.
  • Columella: Tissue that separates the nostrils.
  • Conchal cartilage: The largest and deepest concavity of the external ear.
  • Constricted ear: Also called a lop or cup ear, has varying degrees of protrusion, reduced ear circumference, folding or flattening of the upper helical rim, and lowered ear position.
  • Contracture: A puckering or pulling together of tissues; a potential side effect of cleft surgery.
  • Contractures: Scars that restrict movement due to skin and underlying tissue that pull together during healing and usually occur when there is a large amount of tissue loss, such as after a burn.
  • Cryptotia: Also called hidden ear, occurs when the upper rim of the ear is buried beneath a fold of scalp secondary to abnormal folding of the upper ear cartilage toward the head. The folding is the reverse of that commonly seen in the protruding ear.


  • Dermabrasion: Mechanical polishing of the skin.
  • DIEP flap: Deep Inferior Epigastric perforator flap which takes tissue from the abdomen.
  • Donor site: An area of your body where the surgeon harvests skin, muscle and fat to reconstruct your breast - commonly located in less exposed areas of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttocks.
  • Dupuytren's contracture: A disabling hand disorder in which thick, scar-like tissue bands form within the palm and may extend into the fingers. It can cause restricted movement, bending the fingers into an abnormal position.


  • Ear axis: The main line of ear growth.
  • Endocrine system: A group of glands that make hormones which help to control activities in your body such as reproduction, metabolism, growth and development. Testing of your endocrine system may be done to look for signs of diabetes, thyroid disorders, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis, hypertension and obesity.
  • Epidermis: The uppermost portion of skin.
  • Excision: To remove the skin.
  • Extensor tendon: A tendon which serves to extend a bodily part.
  • External incisions: Surgical incisions made on the surface of your skin.


  • Flap techniques: Surgical techniques used to reposition your own skin, muscle and fat to reconstruct or cover your breast.
  • Flexor tendon: A tendon which serves to bend a body part.
  • Frozen section: A surgical procedure in which the cancerous lesion is removed and microscopically examined by a pathologist prior to wound closure to ensure all cancerous cells have been removed.


  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Grafting: Tissue taken from other parts of the body.


  • Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
  • Hemoglobin: Blood count.
  • Human fat: Harvested from your own body and used as an injectable filler for soft tissue augmentation.
  • Hyfrecation: Spider vein treatment in which the vessels are cauterized.
  • Hyperpigmented scar: A scar that is darker in color.
  • Hypertropic scar: Thick clusters of scar tissue that develop directly at a wound site.
  • Hypopigmented scar: A scar that is lighter in color.


  • Injectable fillers: Substances used to restore volume and your youthful appearance.
  • Intraoral: Inside the mouth.
  • Intraoral incisions: Surgical incisions made inside the mouth.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives are administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.


  • Keloids: Large scars that can be painful or itchy, and may also pucker which can occur anywhere on your body, developing more commonly where there is little underlying fatty tissue, such as on the breastbone or shoulders.


  • Laser resurfacing: A method to change to the surface of the skin that allows new, healthy skin to form at the scar site.
  • Laser therapy: An intense beam of light passed over the leg to eliminate spider veins.
  • Laser treatment: An intense beam of light directed at the spider vein, which obliterates it through the skin.
  • Latissimus dorsi flap technique: A surgical technique that uses muscle, fat and skin tunneled under the skin and tissue of a woman's back to the reconstructed breast and remains attached to its donor site, leaving blood supply intact.
  • Light therapy: (Intense Pulsed Light) Pulses of light that can be used to treat discoloration and texture changes of the skin.
  • Lipoplasty: Another term for liposuction.
  • Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin's surface to reduce fullness.
  • Local anesthesia: A drug is injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
  • Local flap: A surgical procedure used for skin cancer in which healthy, adjacent tissue is repositioned over the wound.
  • Lower body lift: Surgical procedure to correct sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, groin, and outer thighs.


  • Macrotia: Overly large ears; a rare condition.
  • Mammogram: An x-ray image of the breast.
  • Mastectomy: The removal of a breast, typically to rid the body cancer.
  • Medial thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the inner thigh.
  • Melanoma: A skin cancer that is most often distinguished by its pigmented blackish or brownish coloration and irregular and ill-defined borders is the most serious form of skin cancer. It occurs in the deepest portion of the epidermis, and for this reason, melanoma is the most likely form of skin cancer to spread quickly in the skin and to other parts of the body.
  • Microsurgery: High magnification to repair or reconnect severed nerves and tendons, common in trauma cases and often used to reattach severed fingers or limbs.
  • Microtia: The most complex congenital ear deformity when the outer ear appears as either a sausage-shaped structure resembling little more than the earlobe, or has more recognizable parts of the concha and tragus or other normal ear features. It may or may not be missing the external auditory or hearing canal. Hearing is impaired to varying degrees.
  • Mohs surgery: A surgical procedure that's used when skin cancer is like an iceberg. Beneath the skin, the cancerous cells cover a much larger region and there are no defined borders.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging; a painless test to view tissue similar to an x-ray.


  • Nasolabial fold: Deep creases between the nose and mouth.
  • Nevi: A mole.


  • Obturator: An intraoral device your child may wear prior to repair of the cleft lip which may assist in feeding and maintain the arch of the lip prior to repair.
  • Otoplasty: A surgical procedure also known as ear surgery to improve the shape, position or proportion of the ear.


  • Palatoschisis: The scientific term for a cleft palate.
  • PMMA: A widely used implant material formed into tiny microspheres and suspended in a collagen gel for use as a wrinkle filler.
  • Polydactyly: The presence of extra fingers.


  • Reduction mammaplasty: The surgical removal of breast tissue to reduce the size of breasts.
  • Reticular veins: Larger, darker leg veins that tend to bulge slightly, but are not severe enough to require surgical treatment.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A disabling disease that can cause severe inflammation in any joint of the body. In the hand, it can deform fingers and impair movement.
  • Rhytidectomy: A surgical procedure, also known as facelift, to reduce sagging of the mid-face, jowls and neck.


  • Saline implants: Breast implants filled with a salt water solution.
  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerosing solution injected into a vein, causing it to collapse and fade from view.
  • SGAP flap: Superior Gluteal Artery perforator flap, which takes tissue from the buttock.
  • Silicone implants: Breast implants filled with an elastic gel solution.
  • Simple linear veins: Veins which appear as thin, separate lines, and are commonly seen on the inner knee or on the face.
  • Skin graft: A surgical procedure used for skin cancer. Healthy skin is removed from one area of the body and relocated to the wound site. A suture line is positioned to follow the natural creases and curves of the face if possible, to minimize the appearance of the resulting scar.
  • Skin resurfacing: Treatment to improve the texture, clarity and overall appearance of your skin.
  • Soft tissue augmentation: The use of injectable fillers to restore volume and your youthful appearance.
  • Spider-shaped veins: A group of veins radiating outward from a dark central point.
  • Spider veins: Small clusters of red, blue or purple veins that appear in the skin on the thighs, calves and ankles.
  • Stahl's ear: An ear that is distorted in shape due to an abnormal fold of cartilage.
  • Suction lipectomy: Another term for liposuction.
  • Support hose: Special stockings that compress your legs, typically used for varicose veins and post-surgical conditions.
  • Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
  • Syndactyly: When fingers are fused together.


  • Tendon: A tough cord or band of dense white fibrous connective tissue that unites a muscle with some other part.
  • Tenolysis: A surgical procedure to free a tendon from surrounding adhesions.
  • Tissue expansion: A procedure that can substitute for skin grafts. An inflatable balloon called a tissue expander is placed under the skin near the scar site to stretch additional skin to be used to revise a scar. Oftentimes, multiple procedures are needed.
  • TRAM flap: Also known as transverse rectus abdominus musculocutaneous flap, a surgical technique that uses muscle, fat and skin from your own abdomen to reconstruct the breast.
  • Transaxillary incision: An incision made in the underarm area.
  • Trigger finger: An abnormal condition in which flexion or extension of a finger may be momentarily obstructed by spasm followed by a snapping into place.
  • Tumescent or super-wet liposuction: Requires an infusion of saline solution with adrenaline and possibly anesthetic prior to removal of excess fat.
  • Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.


  • Unilateral gynecomastia: A condition of over-developed or enlarged breasts affecting just one breast in men.
  • Ultrasound: A diagnostic procedure that projects high-frequency sound waves into the body and changes the echoes into pictures.
  • Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty: Uses ultrasonic energy to liquefy excess fat prior to surgical suctioning.


  • Varicose veins: Abnormally swollen or dilated veins.
  • Venous system: Veins.


  • Z-plasty: A surgical incision technique that creates small triangular flaps of tissue that help to close wounds over areas of the hand where bending or flexing is essential to function, such as around knuckles.
  • Z-plasty for Scar Revision: A surgical technique that creates angled flaps on either side of the original scar site that can completely reposition or change scar direction, interrupt scar tension or improve scar flexibility.

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