Reconstructive Vs. Cosmetic Surgery

Reconstructive Vs. Cosmetic Surgery

Though the terms plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are often used interchangeably, they actually have different technical meanings. “Plastic surgery” is an umbrella term, which can be divided into two smaller categories: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery.

In this post we’ll look at some of the differences between the two categories and help you figure out which type of surgery is right for you.

Different Goals Of Treatment

Although the skills required to perform reconstructive and cosmetic procedures are similar, each branch of surgery involves a very different approach and end-goal and caters to a different type of patient.

Reconstructive surgery aims to restore “normality” to a patient. People suffering from deformities caused by congenital defects, accidents, or burns are included in this category. Included, too, are people with functional problems. For instance – though most nose jobs are considered to be cosmetic surgery – people who have difficulty breathing through their noses are often great candidates for reconstructive septoplasty. In the same category are women who opt for reconstructive breast surgery following a mastectomy.

Cosmetic surgery, by contrast, aims to improve the aesthetic appearance of a person who doesn’t suffer from any relevant medical condition. Candidates for cosmetic surgery often wish to achieve a more youthful, balanced look. They may want to straighten a crooked nose, reduce the appearance of acne scars, or make age-related wrinkles less obvious.

For some procedures there’s a lot of overlap. Eyelid surgery (otoplasty), for example, is normally considered to be cosmetic surgery – unless the eyelid drooping is so severe that it restricts vision, in which case it’s considered to be reconstructive.

What About Insurance?

Though insurance companies are a notoriously fickle bunch, it’s safe to say that reconstructive surgery is far more likely to be covered by most policies than elective cosmetic surgery. Generally, if your need for surgery is due to developmental abnormalities, infections, trauma, cancer, or disease – or if the normal function of your body is impaired somehow – your procedure is likely to be considered reconstructive.

Certain procedures that seem to fall into the “cosmetic” category may be covered by insurance if you can prove that they’re tied to functional issues. Breast reduction (as a solution to neck or back pain) is an example of this, as are certain types of weight-loss surgery and dental surgery.

Can The Same Surgeon Do Both?

Absolutely! If a plastic surgeon has training and experience in both types of surgery, he or she is likely to be more than capable at both. For both types of surgery, it’s essential that the surgeon has a strong eye for aesthetic balance and an approach tailored to each individual patient. For both reconstructive and cosmetic facial procedures, the surgeon shouldn’t have a single template which is applied indiscriminately to everyone; instead, the patient’s unique facial proportions should be considered.

Dr. Siegel is a facial plastic surgeon in Houston. To find out more about plastic surgery and whether the procedure you’re interested in is considered reconstructive or cosmetic, contact him today!

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