To many people, the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” are interchangeable. The mixing up of terminology exists among medical professionals, too. Many plastic surgeons tend to focus on cosmetic surgery while still describing the nature of their practice as plastic surgery. It’s no wonder, then, that the public believes that either term means the same thing. Technically, though, there’s a difference.
They exist for different reasons
Plastic surgery is functional medicine: Plastic surgery predates cosmetic surgery. It got its start as a way to help people suffering from disfigurations so that they could regain both a regular appearance and normal function in life. Victims of burn injuries and other accidents and also people who suffer from deformities at birth, both benefit from reconstructive plastic surgery. From breast reconstruction after mastectomy to the repair of cleft palates and scar revisions, plastic surgeons help patients with problems that are debilitating in nature.
Cosmetic surgery is aesthetic medicine: Some cosmetic surgeons begin their careers as plastic surgeons. To enter the field of cosmetic surgery and help people achieve aesthetic improvements to features that are already normal, they accept further training in aesthetic and cosmetic surgical skills. Not all cosmetic surgeons have primary training in plastic surgery, though. Cosmetic surgeons often come from a number of different medical backgrounds. They accept training in the procedures that they wish to specialize in — breast enhancement or augmentation, facial enhancement, body contouring and so on — before entering practice.
Plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons are overseen by different trade bodies
Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery require different forms of training. The American Board of Plastic Surgery oversees professionals in six different categories, cosmetic surgery being only one of them. Cosmetic surgeons have the choice of being overseen by either this body or the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery that specializes only in surgery for aesthetic reasons.
Surgeons receive different types of training for each specialization
To gain board certification in plastic surgery, a physician needs to complete a residency in general surgery, and then go through a program in plastic surgery for a further two years before practicing. Most residency programs specialize in areas such as trauma surgery, reconstruction surgery or congenital defect repair. Some surgeons choose cosmetic surgery. Such plastic surgeons tend to only have limited exposure to this side of their craft.
When you see that a doctor wears the title of board-certified plastic surgeon, then, it should tell you that he or she has a plenty of training in plastic or reconstructive surgery, but very little in aesthetic cosmetic surgery.
Certified cosmetic surgeons have more specific training
Cosmetic surgeons have far more specialized training in achieving aesthetic results than board-certified plastic surgeons. During their year-long fellowship training, cosmetic surgeons receive intense exposure to every cosmetic surgery procedure — something that plastic surgeons do not have the benefit of. They are also required to perform at least 300 cosmetic surgery procedures prior to receiving certification. Such concentrated training is important to achieving aesthetically pleasing results. If you have a choice, you should always take a cosmetic procedure to a cosmetic surgeon.
You do need to be aware, though, that in many parts of the country, cosmetic surgeons use the same interchangeable terminology as consumers do in order to better be able to connect with them. Advertisements for plastic surgery in Sacramento and other parts of California, for instance, are often actually by cosmetic surgeons specializing in aesthetic surgery.
It’s important to keep choice of terminology in mind while looking for the right surgical skills for the procedure that you have in mind.
GUEST BLOGGER: Shelly Ward is a retired office manager for a dermatologist. She likes to research and write about topics that will help others by posting on the web. Look for her helpful and interesting articles on various websites and blog sites today.