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Dr. Aguirre

Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgeons - Understanding the Difference

Cosmetic surgery is growing in popularity day-by-day. However, there are many questions and misconceptions about the specialty.

At ASC our goal is to help patients make educated decisions about their surgical options. It is important to know that there are distinct differences between cosmetic and plastic surgeons.

The difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, cosmetic surgery is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck and body. Because treated areas function properly but lack aesthetic appeal, cosmetic surgery is considered elective.

Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature.

The education difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon.
According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, there is no residency program specifically focused on cosmetic surgery, physicians who wish to pursue cosmetic surgery have different backgrounds. First, a physician must go through medical school and a residency program, preferably in a surgical specialty such as general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), dermatologic surgery or plastic surgery. After proving competent in anatomy, physiology, pathology and basic sciences, a physician may attain board certification in their specialty and then continue their post-residency training specifically in cosmetic surgery. This can be done through a fellowship program (a one-on-one observational and training program with an experienced cosmetic surgeon), as well as through workshops, seminars and lectures. Physicians with enough experience in cosmetic surgery may choose to become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.

Plastic surgeons follow the same educational timeline as many cosmetic surgeons. After finishing medical school they complete a residency in plastic surgery, learning to treat defects of the face and body including tumors, cleft palates, deformities, hand repair and burn injuries. A physician may then become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. At this point, a plastic surgeon may take the same steps as a obstetrician and gynecologist to gain experience in cosmetic surgery - through a fellowship training program, workshops, seminars and lectures, and then become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery after gaining more experience.


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