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Art, Artistry, and Plastic Surgery

Sepehripour, Sarvnaz M.R.C.S.(Eng.); Patel, Animesh Jayantilal K. M.R.C.S.(Eng.), L.L.M.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: October 2012 - Volume 130 - Issue 4 - p 638e–640e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318262f646

Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Correspondence to Dr. Patel, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, United Kingdom

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Plastic surgery requires a thorough understanding of anatomy and basic medical science, and meticulous surgical technique. Importantly, for many reconstructive and aesthetic procedures where the operation aims to improve appearance, an artistic flair is desirable,1 and Rohrich and Sullivan’s recent Editorial2 in this Journal reminds us of the importance of this. Having the ability to draw accurately, the ability to (re)create complex three-dimensional structures, and having an interest in art can all be called being “artistic,” and although distinct, these attributes are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

We previously carried out a questionnaire survey of plastic surgery training representatives in England, with a 60 percent response rate (n = 26). Aims included ascertaining whether these trainers had any interest and/or qualifications in art, whether they thought artistic skills were relevant in plastic surgery, and how they should be assessed. Seven respondents hold formal art qualifications (Fig. 1, above), nine attended art courses/classes, and the majority enjoy art as a hobby (photography, n = 13; sketching, n = 11; painting, n = 10; and sculpture, n = 4).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Fifteen individuals agreed or strongly agreed that artistic skills are important in plastic surgery, whereas six disagreed (Fig. 1, center):

Just because you can draw does not mean you can operate competently.

Seventeen individuals felt that there should not be any assessment of artistic skills during recruitment, whereas a small number (n = 4) felt they were necessary and should be tested for (Fig. 1, below):

By drawing anatomical sites commonly encountered (e.g., nose, lips, eyes, ears) and having the drawing assessed for accuracy.

Often, artistic ability is inherent to the individual, but there are some skills that can be acquired and thus taught. For those who are not natural artists, courses are available to teach and enhance artistic skills.3,4 As stated by one of the survey’s respondents:

Attendance at sculpture courses would be extremely valuable in training perception and enhancing 3D visuospatial skills.

There are courses that aim to teach drawing skills for surgical notes and accurate documentation, and there are those that focus on learning the perception of size, shape, and visuospatial appreciation, which improve concepts of human symmetry and proportions. These have been shown to improve the planning and execution of reconstructive surgical procedures. It has been suggested that art education should be a part of an aesthetic surgery training curriculum.5

In addition, the ability to draw accurately helps in the documentation of complex surgical procedures. We feel accurate drawings are very useful in clinic and operation notes, making them easier to follow, and are also useful for explaining to patients likely outcomes following surgery. The ability to draw a realistic appearing hand or face would only inspire confidence from a patient.

The plastic and reconstructive surgeon’s goals to recreate form and function require, among other things, a thorough knowledge of anatomy and meticulous surgical technique. We would argue that an artistic flair is also important and will only enhance the surgeon’s practice to achieve the best aesthetic outcomes.

The present authors are both keen artists; the first author attended the Slade School of Fine Arts, London.

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The authors have no competing interests to disclose.

Sarvnaz Sepehripour, M.R.C.S.(Eng.)

Animesh Jayantilal K. Patel, M.R.C.S.(Eng.), L.L.M.

Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Addenbrooke’s Hospital

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridge, United Kingdom

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1. Morani AD. Art in medical education: Especially plastic surgery. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 1992;16:213–218
2. Rohrich RJ, Sullivan D. So you want to be like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo? Which one are you? Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011;128:1309–1311
3. . Sculpture for surgeons. Available at: Accessed 10 March 10, 2012
4. The Royal College of Surgeons of England.. Drawing for surgeons. Available at: Accessed March 10, 2012
5. Güneron E, Kivrak N, Koyuncu S, Tuncer S, Uysal A. Aesthetic surgery training: The role of art education. Aesthet Surg J. 2005;25:84–86
©2012American Society of Plastic Surgeons