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Southern DHB Plastic Surgery

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    What is Plastic Surgery?
    Plastic surgery covers a wide range of different surgical procedures that repair, reconstruct or replace structures in many different parts of the body including the skin, face and head, hands and breast. Plastic surgery does not involve the use of plastic materials.
    Reconstructive Surgery
    Reconstructive surgery is performed on parts of the body that are abnormal or have been affected by a birth defect, accident or disease. This includes cleft lip and palate repair, scar revision or reconstruction (including skin grafts) following burns. Surgery is usually performed to improve function, but may also be performed to bring the appearance of a part of the body as close as possible to normal.


    • Dr Anne Collins

      Dr Anne Collins

      Plastic Surgeon
    • Mr Patrick Lyall

      Mr Patrick Lyall

      Plastic Surgeon - Clinical Director
    • Dr Rebecca Ayers

      Dr Rebecca Ayers

      Plastic Surgeon
    • Mr Will McMillan

      Mr Will McMillan

      Plastic Surgeon

    Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate

    A cleft lip occurs when there is a failure of normal structures to join together during formation of the lip, resulting in a gap in the lip. A cleft lip often occurs together with a cleft palate which is the result of the failure of the two sides of the roof of the mouth to join together. A cleft palate can affect a child’s ability to feed, rate of weight gain, middle ear function, speech and facial growth. Cleft lip and palate are usually repaired by surgery at about 9 months of age. In some cases, the lip is strapped with tape for some time before surgery to help prepare for the procedure. Further surgery is usually carried out at about 7 or 8 years of age. During this time, the child’s hearing and speech development will be monitored. Sometimes speech therapy and/or grommets (drainage tubes inserted into the ear drums) may be necessary.


    This occurs when the bones of an infant’s skull fuse together before the brain has finished expanding. This can cause an abnormally shaped head and unusual facial appearance. Surgery is performed to release the fused skull bones and to reshape the head.


    Also known as port wine stains or strawberry haemangiomas, these are non-cancerous, vascular skin lesions. These usually appear in the first month after birth and can grow very quickly for about 8 months. Haemangiomas generally start to fade and become smaller after 2-10 years of age but usually do not disappear completely. Treatment is not usually recommended unless the haemangioma is causing problems such as bleeding, feeding or breathing difficulties or impairing vision. Recommended treatments depend on the type and location of the haemangioma and include medication, laser treatment and surgery. If surgery is required, it usually does not require an overnight stay in hospital.


    A naevus is a common skin growth composed of special pigment-producing cells. Naevi can vary in size, with small naevi requiring only simple surgery for removal, while the removal of larger naevi may require more than one operation and may involve skin grafts.

    Varicose Veins

    These are bulging veins that lie just beneath the skin (superficial veins). They occur when the walls of a vein are weak or damaged or if the valves in the vein that normally stop the blood from flowing backwards are impaired, resulting in pooling of the blood and stretched veins. Besides being unattractive, varicose veins can be painful and cause inflammation or ulceration. The following different types of surgery are available if varicose veins require treatment: Sclerotherapy – a tiny needle is used to inject a chemical solution into the vein that causes the vein to collapse. This approach is recommended for small varicose veins or spider veins that typically appear on the upper legs. You will need to wear elastic bandages or stockings over the treated area for some time after surgery. Vein stripping – the varicose veins are cut out and the veins that branch off them are tied off. The cuts (incisions) made in the skin are closed with sutures. You will need to wear elastic bandages or stockings over the treated area for some time after surgery. This procedure requires anaesthesia. Phlebectomy – small cuts (incisions) are made in the leg and the varicose veins are pulled out with a tiny hook-like instrument. The cuts are closed with tape rather than sutures and, once healed, are almost invisible. You will need to wear elastic bandages or stockings over the treated area for some time after surgery. This procedure requires anaesthesia.

    Breast Reconstruction

    When a breast has been removed (mastectomy) because of cancer or other disease, it is possible in most cases to reconstruct a breast similar to a natural breast. A breast reconstruction can be performed as part of the breast removal operation or can be performed months or years later. There are two methods of breast reconstruction: one involves using an implant; the other uses tissue taken from another part of your body. There may be medical reasons why one of these methods is more suitable for you or, in other cases, you may be given a choice.   Implants A silicone sack filled with either silicone gel or saline (salt water) is inserted underneath the chest muscle and skin. Before being inserted, the skin will sometimes need to be stretched to the required breast size. This is done by placing an empty bag where the implant will finally go, and gradually filling it with saline over weeks or months. The bag is then replaced by the implant in an operation that will probably take 2-3 hours under general anaesthesia (you will sleep through it). You will probably stay in hospital for 2-5 days.   Flap Reconstruction A skin flap taken from another part of the body such as your back, stomach or buttocks, is used to reconstruct the breast. This is a more complicated operation than having an implant and may last up to 6 hours and require a 5- to 7-day stay in hospital.

    Hand Surgery

    Problems with the appearance or function of the hand can be the result of injury, birth defects or degenerative conditions.   Transplantation Fingers or hands that have been accidentally cut off can be reattached by very detailed surgery that is performed under a microscope (microsurgery) and involves reconnecting tendons, blood vessels and nerves.   Arthritis Arthritis is a condition in which a joint and the surrounding tissue become swollen and painful. If surgery is necessary, it may involve replacement of the joint with an artificial joint or removal or repair of swollen or damaged tissue.   Birth Abnormalities Surgery may sometimes be required for hand abnormalities that are present at birth such as too many or too few fingers, webbed fingers or joints that won’t bend.   Carpal Tunnel Syndrome A pinched nerve in the wrist that causes tingling, numbness and pain in your hand may require surgery to make more room for the nerve. This operation is usually performed under local anaesthetic (the area being treated is numb but you are awake).   Injuries Damage to tendons, nerves, joints and bones in the hand may require surgical repair. In some cases, tissue may be transferred from a healthy part of your body to the injured site (grafting).

    Scar Revision

    Scar appearance can be improved by various methods including a surgical procedure known as scar revision. This usually involves cutting out the old scar, closing the wound with stitches and, in some cases, moving the scar so that it is hidden by natural features of the body. Scar revision is usually performed under local anaesthesia (the area around the scar is numbed by injecting a local anaesthetic). Sometimes you may also be given steroid injections at the time of surgery. Immediately following the procedure, you will need to remain at the clinic for about an hour, during which you will be encouraged to walk around. You may or may not have a dressing put on the wound and it is important to keep the area dry for 24 hours. Stitches may be removed in 1-2 weeks. You may need to take a few days off work after the surgery.

    Skin Lesions

    Skin lesions can be divided into two groups: benign (non-cancerous): e.g. moles, cysts, warts, tags. These may be removed to prevent spreading (warts), stop discomfort if the lesion is being irritated by clothing/jewellery or to improve appearance.   malignant (cancerous): basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are generally slow growing and unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is a serious skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. Urgent removal is recommended.   Surgery to remove skin lesions usually involves an office or outpatient visit, local anaesthesia (the area around the scar is numbed by injecting a local anaesthetic) and stitches. You may or may not have a dressing put on the wound and it is important to keep the area dry for 24 hours. Stitches may be removed in 1-2 weeks. You may need to take a few days off work after the surgery.

    Skin Grafting

    If the scar to be revised or skin lesion being removed is particularly large, a skin graft may be performed. This involves transferring skin from another, healthy part of the body (donor site) to the injured site (recipient site). While skin grafting can improve the function of a damaged area, some scarring will be left at both the donor and recipient sites. Skin grafting is likely to be performed under general anaesthesia (you will be asleep during the procedure) in a hospital. The wound may take weeks or months to heal and you may need to wear a support bandage for a similar period.

    Nose Surgery (Rhinoplasty)

    Surgery can be carried out to improve the appearance of your nose e.g. straightening it if it’s crooked or increasing or decreasing its size. Small cuts (incisions) are made either on the inside or outside (in the creases) of the nose. Excess bone and/or cartilage is removed and the nose reshaped. The surgery takes about 2 hours and is performed under general anaesthetic (you sleep through it). You may be able to go home the same day or, in some cases, you may have to stay in hospital overnight. You will need to arrange for another person to drive you home. Your nose will be covered with a splint that you will have to wear for about 1 week. It will take about six weeks for the worst of the swelling to disappear.

    Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)

    The appearance of ears that are misshaped or protruding (‘bat ears’) can be improved surgically. This type of operation is often carried out in children. Cuts (incisions) are made behind the ears through which the cartilage in the ear can be reshaped or removed. The surgery lasts 1-2 hours and can be performed under local anaesthetic (the area treated is numb but you are awake), allowing you to go home the same day. For children, the procedure would be performed under general anaesthetic (they sleep through it) and they will remain in hospital overnight. You will need to wear head bandages for about 1 week and will probably be able to return to normal daily routines after that.