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 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.
American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons has designed a special patient education brochure explaining the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery, and how to choose your cosmetic surgeon. This brochure clarifies misconceptions in the media, issues about board-certification, and the multi-disciplinary nature of cosmetic surgery and can be found at www.cosmeticsurgery.org.
How does the education differ between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?
As 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, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), maxillofacial surgery or plastic surgery. After proving competency and graduating from an accredited residency program, a physician may attain board certification in their specialty. Many surgeons that wish to practice the art of cosmetic surgery will continue their education after residency. Most will take a one to two year position in an accredited fellowship that focuses solely on cosmetic surgery.
Choosing your cosmetic surgeon should be based on an examination of several parameters.
- Does your cosmetic surgeon have adequate residency training related to the procedures they perform in practice?
- Does your cosmetic surgeon have experience in the performance of these procedures in private practice since he/she completed his/her residency?
- Does your cosmetic surgeon have fellowship training beyond residency, which focused specifically on cosmetic surgery?
- Do you feel comfortable that your cosmetic surgeon understands your concerns and goals?
- Do you feel that your cosmetic surgeon cares about your safety and utilizes current state-of-the-art technology to minimize risk, minimize incisions, and maximize benefits?
- Is your cosmetic surgeon focused on continuing education?
- Does your cosmetic surgeon seem to have a gentle bedside manner?
- Is your cosmetic surgeon willing to show you “before and after” photographs of patients which he/she has treated and does he/she have patients who are willing to talk to you before you decide to proceed further?