Principles of plastic surgery portrayed by the professional life of Dr John Peter Mettauer

Yash J. Avashia, Seth R. Thaller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regarded as "America's first plastic surgeon," Dr John Peter Mettauer's professional life displays 3 fundamental keystones of plastic surgery: education, innovation, and practice. To fully appreciate the history of our plastic surgery, one must look beyond a purely factual recount of noteworthy actions performed decades ago. Fundamental principles that governed achievements of our predecessors remain applicable even today. Dr Mettauer thrived as a medical student under the influence of distinguished professors in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, he continued to propagate their basic tenets when he established his medical institute in 1837. Throughout his life, Dr Mettauer combined ingenuity with scientific inquiry to devise numerous unprecedented surgical techniques and instruments. He was a prolific writer and exquisitely documented his work in medical journals for the benefit of both contemporary and future surgeons. One of Dr Mettauer's momentous achievements in plastic surgery that displays his remarkable capabilities was his contributions to management of both simple and complicated cases of cleft palate. He was the first to describe relaxing lateral incisions for treating complete cleft palates and, incidentally, was the first to successfully treat this in America. He invariably replicated similar success in establishing techniques for treating a wide range of anatomic deformities. Cumulatively, Dr Mettauer's lifelong commitment and diligence have truly laid a foundation for the eventual progress and success in the field of plastic surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2043-2047
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Craniofacial Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Americas first plastic surgeon
  • John Peter Mettauer
  • staphylorrhaphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Surgery


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