Plastic or Cosmetic Which is Which???
What’s in a name? A rose by two other names, Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery both smell sweet—William Shakespeare, if he were alive now and married to me.
The difference between the terms “plastic” and “cosmetic” surgeons can be confusing for many. The difference is important. A plastic surgeon has a number of other certifications and is just a notch or two higher on the educational ladder.
First, allow me to disclose that I have had work done by both specialties. It all depends on your needs at the time.
Cosmetic surgery is elective. That is, a patient chooses to have it. If I were certifiably looney, I could plop down $100,000 or so to look like Wonder Woman. Please feel free to vote: Lynda Carter or Gal Godot?
There is also an educational component that defines each term. A plastic surgeon must have three years of general surgery after medical school. Then, they also have another three years in a plastic surgery residency. Then, they may choose to do have more training in other medical specialties such as ophthalmology or ENT. Hand surgery, pediatric plastic surgery, and breast surgery are just a few areas that a plastic surgeon can focus on.
Cosmetic surgeons, after finishing medical school, may have either surgical residency, or a myriad of other residencies. I know of one in the metro San Juan area who is supposed to be the very best at facelifts, but his board certification is in internal medicine. I will leave it to my readers to decide if this is sufficient.
A cosmetic surgeon can get by with one year of a Fellowship in aesthetic medicine. Or, they can take weekend courses: Sorry, not for me!
The goals of each differ also. A plastic surgeon seeks to reconstruct and improve function. A cosmetic surgeon’s goal is to make you look better. Actually, I feel more functional when I look better, but that’s just me. Consider shopping for a swimsuit. Do you function better after liposuction? I know that I do!
Cosmetic surgery, that dedicated to improving appearance, is a component under plastic surgery. A plastic surgeon may be a cosmetic surgeon but a cosmetic surgeon cannot without the extra training be a plastic surgeon.
In the United States and its territories, there exists different accrediting boards for both plastic and cosmetic surgery. For example, the American Board of Plastic Surgery is one of my go-to sites. This is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Cosmetic surgeon may be trained in surgery also. Keep in mind it can be in any medical specialty. An alphabet soup of boards is in each specialty. For example, a cosmetic surgeon may be listed on the Association of Ambulatory Health Care, or the Aesthetic Academy of Aesthetic Medicine-This one is world-wide. Restricted to the US and Canada, the American Board of Aesthetic and Cosmetic Surgery is open to doctors who are licensed as MD, DO, and Dentists. Training is provided and this last site had links to dozens of certification programs.
I have had work by both plastic and cosmetic surgeons, and I cannot stress how important it is to do your detective work. Anyone hanging a shingle out and proclaiming themselves a plastic or cosmetic surgeon should have, in my opinion, certifications in whatever they are selling the public.
Are you confused yet? Here is one more wrinkle: If the procedure is for appearance, and your doctor is board certified in plastic surgery, you still have to pay cash (or credit card for frequent flier miles.)
But, if you are unlucky and get caught in that epidemic net of breast cancer, then you may get breast reconstruction courtesy of your insurance company.
I will be touching upon insurance’s role in plastic surgery in another post.
Although I lament the passing of cursive writing and others quaint symbols of a bygone era, it is clear that the internet has made each and every one of us amateur detectives.
Sites abound only a mouse click away. Health grades, RealSelf.com, and Health.US News.com are but a few where consumers can check a doctor’s qualifications and educations. Many sites list malpractice information. No matter how nice the receptionist is or the nurse, always go online and see for yourself. You have the power of the purse: Use it!