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Is There a Difference Between a Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeon?

If you aren’t satisfied with how you look or fit in your clothes, you might be thinking about cosmetic or plastic surgery, but what’s the difference? Many people believe that cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons are the same.

These surgeons practice related specialties, but a board-certified cosmetic surgeon has gone through different training and emphases than a board-certified plastic surgeon.

If you’re considering going under the knife, it’s smart to understand the differences between these two surgeons, so you know which is the best fit for your needs.

Plastic Surgery Overview

When you hear plastic surgery, you might think of nose jobs and liposuction. However, the primary focus of plastic surgery is to improve the function and appearance of damaged parts of the body.

A plastic surgeon uses many surgical techniques, such as skin grafts, flap surgery, and microvascular surgery. They can move healthy skin, muscle, blood vessels, and fat from one body part to the other affected by congenital disabilities, accidents, burns, tumors, and other health problems.

Some common types of plastic surgery include:

  • Palate and cleft palate correction
  • Breast reduction and breast reconstruction after a mastectomy
  • Removal of skin cancer
  • Scar revision
  • Hand surgery
  • Cosmetic surgery to the neck, head, trunk, and extremities. Can include facelift, nose job, skin resurfacing, or tummy tuck.

Generally, plastic surgeons have more training in handling congenital defects, repairing accident damage, and other medical-related procedures.

Cosmetic Surgery Overview

Cosmetic surgery includes standard plastic surgery procedures and other surgical and non-surgical techniques to improve your appearance. Cosmetic surgeons most often do operations on the neck, head, trunk, and extremities.

Some of the most common cosmetic surgeries are:

  • Facelift
  • Surgery to alter the shape or size of your chin, nose, ears, and other features of the face
  • Breast augmentation or breast lift
  • Skin resurfacing
  • Liposuction
  • Removal of spider veins

Generally, cosmetic surgeons are more experienced in procedures that alter the patient’s natural appearance without a pre-existing medical problem.

Differences In Training and Certification

As you consider these procedures to improve your look, it’s essential to understand the differences in training between board-certified cosmetic and plastic surgeons. Whichever you choose, you should opt for a board-certified surgeon, which is the highest level of qualification.

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

A board-certified plastic surgeon must:

  • Finish four years of medical school.
  • Complete five or six years of medical residency in general surgery and plastic surgery, including procedures for cosmetic purposes.
  • Pass the certification examination from the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Board-Certified Cosmetic Surgeon

A board-certified cosmetic surgeon must:

  • Finish four years of medical school.
  • Complete four to six years of medical residency in one of these areas: general surgery, gynecology, and obstetrics, oral surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, or ophthalmology.
  • Complete a one or two-year cosmetic surgery training program.
  • Pass a certification examination from the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.

What You Should Look For

It’s important to know that some plastic surgeons but not all of them, do cosmetic surgery in their practice. If they do, you could see them go by these names: cosmetic plastic surgeon, cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, or facial cosmetic surgeon. The terms could confuse you when you are looking for the surgeon you want to transform your look.

But you shouldn’t focus on those words. Instead, look for these:

  • Check if they are board-certified in plastic or cosmetic surgery. You want to ensure they are board-certified because they have more experience in most procedures. And if something goes wrong, they have the skill and experience to handle it.
  • Experience they have in doing the procedure you want. This means if they do the procedure regularly and have excellent results. Ask your plastic surgeon how often they have done the surgery in the last year. Ask about any complications they have see and how they handled them.
  • High quality of care in the facility where the surgeon works.
  • High patient satisfaction: Check online reviews and with friends and relatives to see if people liked their results.

Again, whether you choose a plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon, make sure they are board-certified. While a non-board certified surgeon can do a breast implant, San Antonio breast augmentation, San Antonio liposuction, San Antonio tummy tuck or San Antonio rhinoplasty, they may not know how to do it well. Nor will they be as likely to handle complications properly.

Request a Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Consultation

If you’re dreaming about changing your appearance with cosmetic or plastic surgery, Dr. Scott J Farber or Dr. Amita Shah of Hill Country Plastic Surgery can help. They will consult with you for your San Antonio procedure today. They’ll go over the options, your goals, and more to determine if you’re an ideal candidate for the treatment you want.

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