Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery – What’s the Difference?

When you’re looking for a surgeon to perform an aesthetic procedure, you’re confronted with a lot of medical terms. Plastic surgeon, plastic and reconstructive, cosmetic surgeon – what’s the difference? And which one is right for you?

People who are having a cosmetic surgery, or a surgery that’s for aesthetic reasons, may think they need a “cosmetic” surgeon. Actually, there’s an important distinction to know between plastic and cosmetic surgeons.  Here’s how to choose the right surgeon for you.

Defining the Surgery Types

The purpose of reconstructive surgery is to restore appearance or function to a body part after trauma, illness, birth defects, or similar events. Restoring a breast after mastectomy is the most well-known example of this, but plastic or reconstructive surgery is done on nearly any part of the body, including the face.

The goal of aesthetic surgery, on the other hand, is to improve or enhance one’s appearance. This may include procedures such as a facelift, rhinoplasty, or otoplasty. Any procedure that is done for aesthetic (appearance enhancement) reasons would fall under this category.

A Plastic Surgeon’s Training

Board certified plastic surgeons must complete medical school and then serve as a surgical resident for a minimum of three years. This is followed by three years of residency specifically in plastic surgery , and many surgeons go on to study even further, refining their specialty to the face, hand, or other areas. You will know if your surgeon has this training and background because he or she will be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or, in the case of facial procedures, the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Cosmetic Surgeons Aren’t the Same

Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, may belong to nearly any medical specialty, such as family medicine, gynecology, or internal medicine. Although they also completed medical school, they may not have the years of training that is required to be certified by the ABPS.

Unfortunately, some cosmetic surgeons have very little training at all, taking weekend courses on cosmetic surgery or possibly just a year-long fellowship in aesthetic procedures. This is a big contrast to the years of training required for plastic surgeons. Cosmetic surgeons also cannot perform plastic or reconstructive surgery, as they do not receive training in this area.

Choosing Your Surgeon

The training of your surgeon should be an important factor when you’re deciding who should perform your aesthetic procedure. Don’t trust your most valuable feature, your face, to someone who doesn’t have the background and experience required for plastic surgery board certification. Ideally, you should choose a surgeon who has additional training specifically in facial procedures to ensure you’ll get the best results.

Dr. Michel Siegel is double board-certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To schedule your consultation, contact our Houston plastic surgery office today!

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