Life

Military medicine: How cosmetic surgery was born out of brutality of the trenches

Cosmetic surgery resulted from the reconstructive operations carried out on soldiers wounded in the face during the First World War

Medical breakthroughs that began on the battlefield

This week: Cosmetic surgery

TODAY, it's a multi-million-pound global industry, but cosmetic surgery was born out of the need to rebuild the faces of soldiers seriously wounded in the First World War.

Harold Gillies, a New Zealand-born doctor, pioneered surgical techniques to treat men left disfigured by head and facial injuries caused by shells filled with shrapnel, as they peered over trenches during fighting.

After the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Dr Gillies treated some 2,000 cases, specialising in rebuilding broken jaws and restoring the shape of the patient's face.

After the war he began refining his techniques on civilians as well as military patients, and his work was developed even further during the Second World War.

By the 1980s, cosmetic surgery – from face-lifts to tummy tucks – had become a choice, rather than a necessity, for many people, and today more than 20 million surgical procedures are performed around the world ever year.

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