To the layman, the meaning and implications of the word surgery are clear, but not so when it comes to the terms plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. We often get confused between the two and do not care to know the difference. We often make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably, too. If you are going to talk about it or probably consider undergoing it, it pays to know the difference between the two and use the words appropriately.
Plastic surgery is a procedure that helps improve or eliminate physical or physiological problems. This could relate to the face and body and the problem may have arisen from any disease, traumatic injury, or could also be congenital. Patients typically opt for these procedures to improve their general well-being and health standards.
Some problems affect vital functions of the body and mind making patients self-conscious and unable to fully function physically. Plastic surgery plays an important role in fixing these problems that tend to hold back patients socially, physically or psychologically. Some of the common congenital plastic surgery situations include facial deformities such as a cleft palate, cleft lip, or crooked nose (serious enough to affect breathing). Even procedures like breast reconstruction and ear reconstruction are termed plastic surgery since they enable patients to improve their social and psychological health besides improving the specific bodily function.
On the other hand, cosmetic surgery is a procedure that is done to improve the patient’s appearance. This could be done on the face or parts of the body with a goal of enhancing or improving the appearance of the person.
There are many types of cosmetic surgery procedures which are done to improve the appearance, including: facelifts, rhinoplasty, chin implants, brow lifts, fillers and Botox. A common example of cosmetic surgery is breast enhancement, where women choose to get breast implants or a lift. Such procedures improve the bearing of the person and the look of the breasts. There are also procedures aimed at body contouring such as liposuction and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) that improve the look of the body.
Both cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are about improving a patient’s body but there are principal differences in the training, research, and objectives for the final expectations and outcomes for the patient. Interestingly enough, many plastic surgeons focus on cosmetic surgery.
Firstly, cosmetic surgery is focused on improving a patient’s appearance in regard to procedures, techniques, and principles. All areas of the head, neck, and body can be treated with cosmetic surgery with the key concerns being improving appearance, symmetry, and proportion. Cosmetic surgery is not done to improve the functional aspect of the body part. Doctors from diverse medical fields of specializations practice cosmetic surgery apart from plastic surgeons.
Plastic surgery is basically reconstructive in intent with a view to correct the functional aspect of specific body parts. Plastic surgery practitioners are reconstructive plastic surgeons in training and practice. Since the practice goals for cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are distinct with specific and different procedure sets, the training and certification processes are different for a certified cosmetic surgeon and a certified plastic surgeon.
A cosmetic surgery specialization requires the doctor to gain board certification in their specialty, and complete a post-residency training in cosmetic surgery, through a cosmetic surgery fellowship program, with additional workshops, seminars, or lectures. Experienced cosmetic surgeons must be certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), obtaining their certification based on the strict set of criteria established by them to ensure experience and expertise in cosmetic surgery.
On the other hand, plastic surgeons finish medical school and complete a residency and/or fellowship in plastic surgery with additional certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. A plastic surgeon may also choose to undergo additional training in cosmetic surgery or gain experience in cosmetic surgery through a fellowship training program, workshops, seminars or lectures. Certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is also possible if the doctor fulfills the necessary requirements.
Another factor of difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery is that the insurance plan does not cover cosmetic surgeries, and only in specific cases does it cover a part of surgery if it improves function.
It should now be clear that plastic and cosmetic surgeons are distinct by virtue of their specific training and education. It is equally evident that the choice of surgeon depends on the specific procedure and need. Therefore you would need to ask the right questions of the surgeon to make the right choice in surgeries plastic or cosmetic.
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