Plastic Surgery vs. Cosmetic Surgery

When considering a cosmetic surgery procedure such as varicose vein closure, face lift, liposuction or breast augmentation, people are almost universally unaware that there is a difference between“Cosmetic Surgery” and “Plastic Surgery.” Before committing to a major cosmetic surgery procedure, it is vital for patients to learn the differences between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery.

Cosmetic Surgery

As defined by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, cosmetic surgery is “a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques”. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the body, head and neck. Because cosmetic surgery is only intended to improve aesthetic qualities and not actual function, it is considered elective. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not part of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgery deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form. Such defects are typically a result of cancer surgery, trauma and disease processes. The main purpose of plastic surgery is to correct and reconstruct dysfunctional areas of the body. It is not necessarily intended to achieve an aesthetic goal. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is part of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Plastic Surgeon’s Training vs. Cosmetic Surgeon’s Training

Many patients might be easily misled to believe board certification in Plastic Surgery evidences a physician’s competence to perform Cosmetic Surgery. While board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery may evidence a physician competent in “Plastic Surgery,” it does not necessarily evidence competency in “Cosmetic Surgery” nor does it demonstrate more “Cosmetic Surgery” education, training or experience than that of a board-certified surgical specialist with post residency training in cosmetic procedures. A recent article published in the Plastic surgery journals reported that 51% of Plastic Surgery residents felt that they did not receive sufficient training in Cosmetic Surgery procedures during their Plastic Surgery residency. The Cosmetic Surgery field is rapidly changing. Most non-invasive rejuvenation procedures have only been around for the last seven years. If your Plastic Surgeon completed their Plastic Surgery residency more than seven years ago–chances are they learned the cosmetic procedure techniques just like other providers at a post residency training course.

Choosing a cosmetic surgeon

Choose your Cosmetic Surgeon as you would choose any other Healthcare provider. Consistently, it is the American Medical Association’s policy that individual character, training, competence, experience and judgment be the criteria for granting privileges and that physicians representing several specialties can and should be permitted to perform the same procedures if they meet the criteria. Surgeons develop their cosmetic surgical skills through post residency training and experience. The point is that a cosmetic surgeon’s skill and ability will depend on the surgeon’s Cosmetic Surgery training and experience. As for how you should choose a cosmetic surgeon or cosmetic surgical center— you should do the research locally and online. You can perform a standard internet search with the name of the doctor or the procedure that you would like to receive more information. What do you see online? Negative or positive feedback or reviews. Ask those in the waiting room or others that you know if they have any feedback. If you are visiting a surgical center, where multiple doctors work, be sure to get the name of THE surgeon who will be performing your procedure. Make sure that your surgeon has a good reputation, a strong background in the surgical field, and above ALL–that they produce good results. Training is important; but skill, judgment and artistic detail are evidenced by experience.

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