7 Differences: Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon

Doctor and woman holding breast

You want the best result, and the best surgeon.   How can you tell?  Truthfully, the surgeon with the highest standards for his or her own performance reliably holds the highest standards across the board.  The best surgeon will have the highest level of training and certification, and will offer you the best care, and likely the best result.

So how can you know?  Plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon?  The differences may surprise you.  Because of common misconceptions surrounding cosmetic plastic surgery, you should understand what’s behind the scrubs and the white coat.

Operations that improve the human body are called Plastic Surgery after the Latin plasticus: that may be molded.  The two types of plastic surgery are reconstructive surgery, after injuries, and aesthetic (cosmetic) surgery, to improve appearance.  Cosmetic surgery is only a part of plastic surgery, but to perform it well, the physician must be fully trained in the entire specialty.

1. All plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons but not all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons.

Board Certified Plastic Surgeons have more training and ARE qualified to perform both reconstructive and aesthetic/cosmetic surgery.

A Cosmetic Surgeon is NOT certified to perform plastic/reconstructive surgery.

2. The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the ONLY board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which accredits surgical training programs.

Plastic Surgeons ARE certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

The American board of Plastic Surgery does NOT acknowledge Cosmetic Surgeons.

3. Don’t all certifying boards have high standards? My surgeon said he’s board certified.

 Confirm not only that that your doctor is “Board Certified,” but that he/she is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

 Cosmetic Surgeons who claim to be board-certified may have received their certificate from the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery; the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) does NOT recognize this board.

4. Is my surgeon trained to perform my surgery?

plastic-cosmetic-surgeon-san-diego-rhinoplastyAfter graduating medical school, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon must be selected among many applicants for residency training in Plastic Surgery.  If chosen, the physician learns how to be a surgeon for three to five years, then trains for at least three more years in plastic surgery.  Training involves closely supervised continuous evaluation and management of many complex clinical situations, and matures the surgeon personally and professionally.  Successful completion of the post-graduate residency years qualifies the surgeon for written and oral examinations administered by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  Surgeons  must submit an entire year of his or her surgical accomplishments for the exam.  Surgeons are not eligible for the exam until they have been practicing plastic surgery independently for two years or longer.

There are no such requirements for Cosmetic Surgeons.  Cosmetic surgeons are doctors who merely decide to perform cosmetic surgery in their practice.  They may be certified in any medical specialty such as a gynecology, dermatology, family physician, ear,-nose-throat, etc. Their training may consist of several short weekend courses to a one-year cosmetic surgery fellowship.

5. Why do hospitals and surgery centers only allow doctors certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery(ABPS) to perform cosmetic procedures?

Because they know the difference!  Board Certified Plastic Surgeons CAN perform both reconstructive and aesthetic/cosmetic surgery in hospital or outpatient surgery centers.

Cosmetic Surgeons are NOT privileged for cosmetic surgery at these facilities and are not allowed to perform reconstructive plastic surgery.  For this reason, cosmetic surgeons usually perform surgery in office based operating rooms which are subject to more relaxed accreditation standards.

6. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) embraces excellence in plastic surgery.  Education, research, intellectual exchange and promoting unity are core values.

 Only doctors certified by the  American Board of Plastic Surgery(ABPS) can become a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

7. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) is an exclusive privilege and requires proven excellence in aesthetic/cosmetic plastic surgery.

  • Members MUST be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery(ABPS).
  • Participate in accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs.
  • Document the performance of a significant number and variety of cosmetic surgical cases to demonstrate a wide range of experience
  • Be sponsored by two ASAPS-members to ensure that the applicant’s professional reputation meets the high standards required by The Aesthetic Society.
  • Abide by ethical standards for professional conduct outlined by the Society’s Bylaws, Code of Ethics, and Conflict of Interest Policy observed by all ASAPS members.

ASAPS  does not offer membership to doctors who are trained in specialties other than plastic surgery; therefore Cosmetic Surgeons do NOT meet these requirements.

For cosmetic surgery, your safest choice is a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who is also a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and/or the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.  Quality is the difference.

 

 

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