Cosmetic surgeons differ from plastic surgeons. Find out how.

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Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgery

There is a lot of confusion in regard to “plastic surgeons” versus “cosmetic surgeons.”

Are they different? The answer is absolutely YES. While the difference appears to be in nomenclature or terminology, the actual difference lies in the training, qualifications, and capabilities of the surgeons.

Describing the relationship between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery is an important first step. Plastic surgery is any surgery to alter the appearance, both for reconstructive and cosmetic purposes. Cosmetic surgery is a subset of plastic surgery when alterations are performed for cosmetic purposes. That being said, all plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons. However, the reverse is not true.

The training and certification of a plastic surgeon are very stringent. A board-certified plastic surgeon is a surgeon who has completed 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 3 to 5 years of general surgery internship and residency, and 2 to 3 years plastic surgery fellowship. The plastic surgeon must then pass oral and written exams set by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a recognized specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties. This means that any board-certified plastic surgeon is qualified to perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgery to any part of the body.

In contrast to the strict requirements and rigorous training for a plastic surgeon, any physician performing cosmetic surgery may proclaim themselves a “cosmetic surgeon.” There is no officially recognized certification in cosmetic surgery nor is there a residency or fellowship specifically for cosmetic surgery. Most of the time, cosmetic surgeons are trained in general surgery, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), obstetrics/gynecology, family medicine, emergency medicine or dermatology. To confuse matters, cosmetic surgeons may be “certified” as a “cosmetic surgeon” by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. However, this organization is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Board of Plastic Surgery, or any other official medical organization.

It is very important to carefully consider the decision of which surgeon to use before ever undergoing a surgical procedure, injectable or laser procedure. You should review the certifications, training, past results, reputation and bedside manner of your doctor to make sure that the fit is right for you. Because the results of your procedure may be permanent, make sure you have the best qualified professional performing your surgery.

Dr. Gilbert Lee is triple board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. If you are considering surgery and would like to consult with Dr. Lee, please contact us below.

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