The Informed Choice: Cosmetic Surgery Consulting


Now you’ll be able to read all those books written by surgeons and even decipher what doctors tell you! Here’s some important about cosmetic surgery terminology, with general medical terms thrown in for good measure.

This glossary is adapted from Creating a New You: Are You Considering Cosmetic Surgery? by Arthur W. Perry, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Robin K. Levison.

ABDOMINOPLASTY (tummy tuck) – Removal of excessive skin and fat of the lower abdomen, often coupled with tightening of stretched muscles.

ALPHA-HYDROXY ACID – Mild acid derived from certain fruits and other foods that remove surface cells when applied to skin.

AMBULATORY SURGICAL FACILITY – Operating room outside of a hospital setting where patients can spend up to twenty-three hours.

ANESTHESIOLOGIST – A physician (M.D.) who administers all types of anesthesia.

ANESTHETIST (CRNA) – A trained and certified specialist (registered nurse) who may administer both general and twilight anesthesia.

AREOLA – Pigmented region around the nipple.

ARRHYTHMIA – Irregular heart rhythm.

ASSISTING SURGEON – A physician who helps the operating surgeon render medical and surgical services.

AUTOLOGOUS FAT GRAFTS – Wrinkle-filler made from a patient’s own fat taken from another body site.

BETADINE – Liquid disinfectant used to sterilize the skin prior to surgery.

BOARD-CERTIFIED SURGEON – One who has completed an accredited residency (or specialty) training program and who has passed a comprehensive examination in his/her field of study.

BODY CONTOURING – Umbrella term for a variety of procedures that reshape the body by removing or manipulating fat, skin, and muscle.

BONDING – Application of a white composite material to teeth to improve their color, shape, or alignment.

BOTOX / BOTULINUM TOXIN Poison derived from bacteria that causes botulism; injected to temporarily paralyze overactive muscles.

BOVINE COLLAGEN – Fibrous protein derived from cowhide that is used to fill lines and wrinkles.

BLEPHAROPLASTY – The removal of excess fat or skin from the upper and/or lower eyelids.

BREAST AUGMENTATION – Surgery to enlarge the breasts by inserting implants.

BREAST LIFT – Surgical procedure that removes excess skin, elevates nipples, and tightens breast tissue to restore a normal contour to sagging breasts; a.k.a. mastoplexy.

BUTTOCK-LIFT - Surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the buttock region and reshape remaining skin to make sagging buttocks tighter.

CANNULA – Blunt-ended hollow tube used to break up and vacuum fat during liposuction.

CANTHOPLEXY – Surgery to shorten horizontal length of the lower eyelids.

CAPSULAR CONTRACTURE – Condition in which a wall of scar tissue that normally grows around breast implants squeezes them, making the breasts hard, and in some cases, distorting their appearance.

CELLULITE – Visible manifestation of fibrous bands that tether skin to underlying muscle; more prevalent in aged, sagging skin.

CHEMABRASION or CHEMICAL PEEL – Use of chemicals on the face, which causes the top layers of skin to slough off, producing smoother, more youthful skin.

COLLAGEN – Strong fibrous protein that holds all the body’s tissues together.

COLUMELLA – Skin bridge separating the nostrils.

COMPOSITE FACE-LIFT – Face-lifting technique in which the skin and fibrous/fatty layer are lifted as one unit.

CONTOUR DEFORMITY – Defect in the skin, such as acne scars or wrinkles.

CORRUGATOR MUSCLES - Group of muscles in the forehead that, when contracted, produce vertical “frown lines” between the eyebrows.

COSMETIC CONTOURING – Reshaping the teeth with a slowly rotating grinding stone.

COSMETIC DENTISTRY – A range of dental procedures that enhance the teeth’s appearance without necessarily improving their function.

COSMETIC PLASTIC SURGERY – Procedures designed to enhance one’s appearance.

CROW’S FEET – A series of horizontal lines at the outer corners of the eyes that usually appear only when a person smiles; also know as “laugh lines.”

CYST – A non-cancerous lump that can form in the skin or any other bodily organ or tissue.

DERMABRASION – Facial sanding, or the use of an abrasive material to buff the top layers of skin, removing fine facial wrinkles and/or acne scars.

DERMATOLOGIST – A medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the skin.

DERMIS – The innermost layers of skin.

DYNAMIC WRINKLES – Lines or creases in the skin that are only visible when the face is animated.

ECTROPION – Basset-hound appearance in which the lower eyelids are pulled down as a result of an eyelid-lift, laser peel, aging, or scarring.

ELASTIN – Microscopic fibers in the skin that control the skin’s elasticity.

ELECTROCOAGULATION – Controlling bleeding during surgery by heat-sealing blood vessels with a high-frequency electrical current.

ENDOSCOPE – Tube-shaped probe fitted with a miniature video camera and tiny fiber-optic light source.

ENDOSCOPY – Surgical technique that allows the surgeon to operate remotely through small incisions with the aid of a camera.

EPIDERMIS – Outermost layers of skin.

EPIDURAL ANESTHESIA – Spinal block that numbs the lower half of the body.

EPINEPHRINE – Adrenaline.

EXCISE – To surgically cut away tissue from the body.

EXERCISE STRESS TEST – Diagnostic procedure that measures the heart’s activity during exercise and can detect heart disease.

EXFOLIATE – To remove the outermost layer of skin cells.

EYELID-LIFT – Surgery to tighten sagging, wrinkled, or hooded eyelids; also known as blepharoplasty.

FACE-LIFT – Operation that removes excess skin and tightens the lower half of the face.

FACIAL PLASTIC SURGERY – A specialist whose practice is limited to plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face, nose, head and neck.

FACIAL TUCK – A procedure performed after a facelift to provide additional tightening of facial tissues.

FELLOWSHIP DOCTOR (Fellow) – A licensed physician who is participating in the highest level of training, after completion of an accredited residency.

FIBREL – Wrinkle-filling substance derived from pig collagen.

FLEXZAN – A sophisticated biomembrane that retains moisture, decreases pain, and hastens healing of surgical wounds.

FOREHEAD-LIFT – A facial rejuvenation procedure that smoothes forehead furrows, lifts sagging eyebrows, and minimizes frown lines between the eyebrows.

GENERAL ANESTHESIA – The patient is put to sleep by an anesthetist or an anesthesiologist who monitors and controls vital signs (breathing, blood pressure, etc.).

GLYCOLIC ACID – The most popular of the alpha-hydroxy acids; an ingredient in many skin-care products, glycolic acid is also used for ultralight chemical peels, also known as “lunch-time peels,” to rejuvenate facial skin.

GRAFT – Living tissue that is transplanted from one part of the body to another, from one person to another person, or from an animal to a human.

GYNECOMASTIA – An often transient condition in which one or both male breasts swell, usually due to a hormonal imbalance.

HAIR TRANSPLANTATION - Surgical transfer of hair bearing grafts to areas of baldness.HEMATOMA – Localized bleeding or blood clot under the skin.

HERPES – One of various conditions that produce small, often painful skin blisters.

HIGH LATERAL TENSION ABDOMINOPLASTY – Tummy tuck done through an incision across the lower belly angling sharply upward at the sides.

HYDROQUINONES – A class of chemicals used in skin bleaches.

HYPERTROPHIC SCAR - A thick, wide scar.

INJECTABLE FILLERS - Material that is implanted or injected beneath the skin’s surface to plump up lines, wrinkles, creases, and depressions, or to make the lips fuller.

IMPONDERABLE – An unforeseen event.

JOWLS – Loose skin and excess fat that hang off the sides of the lower jaw.

KELOID – An enlarged scar that extends beyond the boundaries of the original injury or incision site.

LASER PEEL – A facial rejuvenation technique that uses a pulsed carbon dioxide laser to vaporize outer skin layers and tighten the underlying collagen.

LASER SURGERY – The use of an intensified beam of light to vaporize tissue.

LIDOCAINE – The most commonly used local anesthetic.

LIP AUGMENTATION – An autologous fat transplant or implant into the lips to make them more plump.

LIPOSUCTION – A procedure that removes excess fat by suctioning it out of the body; also know as “lipectomy,” “liposculpture” and “lipoplasty.”

LIQUID SILICONE – An injectable filling agent that was used in the past but is now illegal due to serious safety concerns.

LOCAL ANESTHESIA – Anesthetic agents administered into or onto the tissues to be operated to numb them.

MALAR BONES - Cheekbones.

MAMMOGRAPHY – A low-dose x-ray of the breasts designed to detect breast cancer.

MAMMOPLASTY – Altering the size and shape of the breast.

MASTECTOMY – Surgery to remove all the breast tissue.

MASTOPLEXY – The breast lift operation.

MELANIN – A pigment in the skin that protects the body from ultraviolet light.

MELANOCYTE – A melanin-producing skin cell.

MELANOMA – A potentially fatal form of skin cancer.

MENTOPLASTY – Otherwise known as chin augmentation, this procedure involves building up the chin, often using an implant or the patient’s own bone.

MICROABRASION – Removal of superficial stains from tooth enamel using a low-speed polishing tool.

MICROPIGMENTATION – Cosmetic tattooing, such as permanent eyeliner.

MILIA – Tiny whiteheads on the skin caused by clogged pores.

MOLE – A non-cancerous tumor of the pigment-producing cells of skin; also known as nevus.

NASOLABIAL FOLDS – Deep vertical creases that run between the nostrils and the corners of the mouth. Also called “nasal-labial folds.”

NONSTEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS – A class of drugs including ibuprofen, diflunisal, fenoprofen, and meclofenamate, which kills pain and reduces

inflammation.OPHTHALMOLOGIST – A medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye.

ORBITAL SEPTUM – A membrane within the eye socket that holds in place a series of protective fat pads.

OTOLARYNGOLOGY – A field of medicine and surgery that deals with conditions of the nose, ears, head and neck, including plastic and reconstructive surgery.

OTOPLASTY – Reshaping the cartilage of protruding ears.

OUTPATIENT SURGERY – Any operation that allows the patient to go home in twenty-three hours or less; also known as “day surgery” and “ambulatory surgery.”

PARROT BEAK – A deformity in which abnormal fullness forms above the tip of the nose; also known as “polly beak.”

PECTORALIS MUSCLE – A chest muscle responsible for moving the arm forward and inward.

PERIORAL – The area around the mouth.

PERIOSTEUM – A thin but strong layer of tissue that covers the bones.

PHENOL PEEL – A deep chemical skin peel using carbolic acid.

PHOTOAGING – Accelerated skin aging that results from the cumulative effects of unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

PLASTIC SURGEON - A specialist who practices plastic and reconstructive surgery of the entire body (face, breasts, abdomen, and so on).

PLASTIC SURGERY – A field of surgery comprised of both cosmetic (aesthetic) and reconstructive procedures designed to enhance, restore and/or reconstruct body parts.

PLATYSMAPLASTY – A surgical repair of the neck muscles that involves sewing the two ends of the muscles together, creating one continuous muscle instead of a pair of prominent cords (“turkey-gobbler neck”).

PORCELAIN VENEERS – Custom-made porcelain shells that are attached to the front of teeth to make the smile whiter and more uniform.

POWER BLEACHING – A strong tooth-whitening technique that combines home and office bleaching applications.

RECONSTRUCTIVE PLASTIC SURGERY – Procedures designed to restore the body to a “normal” state.

RECTUS MUSCLES – The straight, vertically oriented abdominal muscles.

REDUCTION MAMMOPLASTY – Reducing the size of the breast by removing excessive tissue.

RESTRICTIVE GARMENT – A tight girdle that is worn after certain kinds of surgery to reduce swelling and bruising.

RHINOPLASTY – A procedure used to change the width, size and/or shape of the nose (often combined with a septoplasty to improve breathing).

RHYTIDECTOMY (the facelift operation) – The removal of excess skin and the tightening of sagging muscles and connective tissue in the face and neck.

SALINE BREAST IMPLANT – Silicone-rubber bag filled with salt-water used to enlarge the breasts; currently the only legal breast implant in the United States.

SCALP FLAPS – A repositioning of large portions of hair-bearing skin to areas of baldness.

SCLERODERMA – A rare autoimmune disease that can attack the skin and internal organs. Symptoms include ultrasensitivity to cold and hardening of the tissues.

SCRUB NURSE – An operating room nurse who is cleansed and dressed appropriately to work within a sterile operating field.

SEPTAL RECONSTRUCTION – A surgical procedure to correct a deviated septum severe enough to cause breathing problems.

SEPTUM – The wall made of cartilage that separates the nostril chambers; when it is off the midline, it is called a “deviated septum.”

SHINGLES – A skin infection that affects the nerves that supply specific areas of the skin. Also known as herpes zoster, shingles stems from the same virus that causes chickenpox.

SKIN NECROSIS – A post-surgical complication in which skin cells die because they were robbed of their blood supply.

SKIN RESURFACING – Any procedure that removes old skin to allow new, younger-looking skin to grow back in its place.

SLIDING GENIOPLASTY – Surgical correction of a severely undersized chin by cutting the chin bone and moving it forward, backward, up, or down with metal plates and titanium screws.

SPF (sun-protection factor) – A number that indicates the strength of a sunscreen or sun block; the higher a product’s number, the more protection it provides from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

STATIC WRINKLES – Lines or creases in the skin that are visible when the facial muscles are relaxed.

SUBMALAR IMPLANTS – Pieces of solid silicone placed just under the cheekbones to plump up hollow cheeks.

SUBPERIOSTEAL FACE-LIFT – A face-lifting technique that undermines the skin and all underlying tissues clear to the level of bone.

SUBMENTAL LIPECTOMY – Surgery designed to eliminate a double chin.

SUCTION LEPECTOMY – Reshaping the cartilage of protruding ears.

SURGICAL REJUVENATION – Cosmetic surgery that makes people look like they did when they were younger.

SURGICENTER – A freestanding medical facility where outpatient surgery is performed.

THIGH-LIFT – A surgical procedure that tightens sagging skin on the inner thighs, outer thighs, or both.

TRANSCONJUNCTIVAL EYELID-LIFT - Lower eyelid-lift done through an incision inside the lid.

TRICHLORACETIC ACID – A chemical used for light face peels; also known as TCA.

TUMESCENT LIPOSUCTION - A liposuction technique in which an epinephrine-containing anesthetic solution is first injected under the skin.

TUMMY TUCK – An operation to flatten the protruding belly by removing excess skin and fat and, if necessary, sewing the abdominal muscles together to create an “inner girdle”; also known as abdominoplasty.

TWILIGHT ANESTHESIA – The patient is heavily sedated during surgery and local anesthetics are used to eliminate pain in the operative sites.

ULTRAPULSED LASER – A specialized laser that delivers high energy light in tiny bursts.

ULTRASOUND-ASSISTED LIPOSUCTION (UAL) – A fat-suctioning technique in which ultrasonic waves are used to emulsify fat before it is vacuumed away.

UNDERMINE – Lifting one layer of tissue from an underlying layer of tissue or bone.

VASOCONSTRICTOR – Any drug whose main effect or side effect narrows blood vessels.

ZOVIRAX – An antiviral drug used in the treatment and prevention of herpes breakouts.


Thank you for all your concern and help in dealing with the many problems consequent to my face lift. You have given me both comfort and strength and just at the time when I needed them most! I only wish I had known about you and services before my procedure!

L.Z., San Diego, CA