Are you of the mind that plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are one in the same? If your answer is yes, you’re not alone, and it’s understandable. Many plastic surgeons focus their practice on cosmetic surgery, and this interchanges the terms. But using one term for another is not technically or medically correct. Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery may be related specialties, but they are not the same by a long shot.

They Have Different Goals

Although plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery focus on improving the body, their goals, research, and training are different.

Cosmetic Surgery Enhances Appearance

The principles, techniques, and procedures of cosmetic surgery focus on improving a patient’s appearance. Enhancing the proportion, symmetry, and aesthetic appeal are its key goals. The surgery can be applied to the body, neck, and head when they function properly. Because there is no functional improvement, cosmetic surgery is always elective. Various surgeons and doctors perform cosmetic surgery including plastic surgeons.

Cosmetic Surgery Scope Includes:

Skin Rejuvenation (dermal fillers, Botox, laser resurfacing)

Body Contouring (Liposuction, Tummy Tuck)

Facial Rejuvenation (Brow Lift, Neck Lift, Eyelid Lift, Facelift)

Breast Surgery (Breast Reduction, Breast Lift, Breast Augmentation)

Plastic Surgery Repairs Defects for Normal Appearance and Function

Plastic Surgery is a surgical specialty focusing on the reconstruction of body and facial defects resulting from disease, burns, trauma and birth disorders. It is reconstructive in principle and seeks to correct bodily defects.

Although many plastic surgeons seek additional training for cosmetic surgery, the basis of their training remains reconstructive surgery. 

Plastic surgery procedures include:

  • Scar Revision Surgery
  • Hand Surgery
  • Lower Extremity Reconstruction
  • Congenital Defect Repair (Extremity Defect Repair, Cleft Palate)
  • Burn Repair Surgery
  • Breast Reconstruction

Cosmetic Surgery Training is Separate from Plastic Surgery Training

Because plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery have different goals, the training process of a cosmetic surgeon will look different from that of a plastic surgeon.

Why Choose a Plastic Surgeon

As defined, cosmetic surgery is the reconstruction of underlying or cutaneous tissues to correct and improve the normal effects of aging, improve scarring, or correct a structural defect. Cosmetic surgery is an important component of plastic surgery, but plastic surgery goes further than the superficial treatment.

By comparison, the definition of plastic surgery is the reconstruction, repair or replacement of physical defects of function or form involving external genitalia, breast and trunk, extremities, hand, cranio-maxillofacial structures, and the musculoskeletal system.

Pathology, physiology, and anatomy are all in-depth areas of study for a plastic surgeon. These areas of study and skill include innovative liposuction techniques, complex wound management, replantation, fat grafts, and free tissue transfer.

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