Cosmetic Surgeons – What is the difference Between Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery?


Most people hear the terms plastic and cosmetic surgeons and assume that they are one in the same. While this is a common and understandable mistake, it is important to know that they are actually not the same. Not only are the procedures that each type of surgeon does different, but their post medical school training is different as well. The confusion comes from the fact that many surgeons practice both fields of expertise, plastic and cosmetic, leading most people to think there is no difference.

Plastic vs. Cosmetic Surgeons

Cosmetic surgery has gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of decades, mostly as elective procedures that can restore the appearance of youth and vitality and this is basically the field of expertise for the cosmetic surgeon. This area of surgery encompasses all elective and aesthetic surgeries geared towards restoring youth and enhancing one’s figure. Plastic surgery on the other hand is about reconstruction. Deformities, trauma, reconstructive, and hand surgeries all fall under the expertise of a plastic surgeon.

Cosmetic Surgeons Have Different Training Requirements

Cosmetic surgeons are under the auspices of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. It is this board that decides the training requirements and provides certification. Cosmetic surgery does not have a specific residency currently, instead doctors wishing to do cosmetic surgery must complete a three to five year related residency and then obtain training and experience in the cosmetic surgery field. To become a board certified surgeon they must complete a fellowship and perform a minimum of 300 cosmetic surgery procedures.

Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons do have residency program which consists of a general residency plus two more years of plastic surgery residency. Plastic surgeons do spend some time learning how to do some of the cosmetic surgery procedures but are not trained on all of them and are only required to do 150 cosmetic surgery cases as opposed to the 300 that cosmetic surgeons must do.

Frequently plastic surgeons also do cosmetic surgery which is probably where the confusion between the two comes in. Plastic surgeons have extensive training that allows them to be able to perform both types of surgery, whereas cosmetic surgeons are only trained and certified to perform cosmetic procedures.

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