What Is the Difference Between a Plastic Surgeon and a Cosmetic Surgeon?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgeons? While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two distinct types of surgeons with different areas of expertise.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the nuances of plastic surgery versus cosmetic surgery, so you can better understand what each type of surgeon does and which is right for you. Whether you’re considering a reconstructive procedure or a cosmetic enhancement, understanding the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery can help you make an informed decision about your healthcare.

So, let’s get started!

What Is the Difference Between a Plastic Surgeon and a Cosmetic Surgeon?

What is a plastic surgeon called? While “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon” are often used interchangeably, they refer to two distinct types of surgeons with different areas of expertise.

Here are some key differences between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons:

Training and Certification:

Plastic surgeons undergo a more extensive training program than cosmetic surgeons. After completing medical school, they complete a residency in plastic surgery, which can last up to six years. During this time, plastic surgeons receive comprehensive training in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, including microsurgery, hand surgery, craniofacial surgery, and burn surgery.

In contrast, cosmetic surgeons typically complete a residency in a different specialty, such as dermatology or general surgery, before undergoing additional training in cosmetic procedures. However, some cosmetic surgeons may still need to complete a formal residency in any medical specialty and may have only completed short-term courses or training programs. An example of a specialization in this realm could be cosmetic dermatology.


Scope of Practice:

Plastic surgeons have a broader scope of practice than cosmetic surgeons. They can perform both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures, such as breast reconstruction after mastectomy, cleft lip and palate repair, and reconstructive surgery for burn victims.

Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, primarily focus on cosmetic procedures that enhance a person’s appearance. These may include procedures like facelifts, breast augmentations, liposuction, and Botox injections.

Board Certification:

In the United States, plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), which is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This certification requires the completion of a rigorous exam, as well as a certain number of years of practice in plastic surgery.

On the other hand, cosmetic surgeons may be certified by several organizations, some of which may not be recognized by the ABMS. Researching a surgeon’s certifications and credentials before undergoing any cosmetic procedure is important. Here’s a brief overview of the primary difference between a board-certified and a board-eligible physician.

In summary, while plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons can perform cosmetic procedures, plastic surgeons have a more extensive training program and a broader scope of practice. If you’re considering a cosmetic procedure, it’s important to research and choose a qualified, board-certified surgeon with experience.

Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery Procedures

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are surgical procedures aimed at improving a person’s physical appearance. While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they refer to different procedures and specialties.

Plastic surgery is a specialty that focuses on reconstructive surgery to repair or restore the function and appearance of damaged or abnormal body parts. Plastic surgeons may also perform cosmetic procedures, but their primary focus is on reconstructive surgery.


Plastic Surgery Procedures:

  1. Breast Reconstruction – This procedure is typically performed on women who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy due to breast cancer. It involves rebuilding the breast using tissue from other parts of the body or implants.
  2. Cleft Lip and Palate Repair – Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. Plastic surgeons can repair these defects through surgery to improve a person’s ability to speak, eat, and breathe.
  3. Burn Reconstruction – Plastic surgeons can perform reconstructive surgery on burn victims to help restore function and appearance to the affected area.
  4. Microsurgery – This technique involves using specialized surgical instruments and microscopes to perform intricate procedures on small blood vessels, nerves, and tissues. Learn more about Microsurgery on Mayo Clinic’s website.

Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, focuses on enhancing a person’s appearance through surgical and non-surgical procedures. These procedures are generally elective and performed on normal, healthy individuals looking to improve their appearance.

Cosmetic Surgery Procedures

Here are some cosmetic surgery examples:

  1. Breast Augmentation – This procedure involves using implants or fat transfer to increase the size and improve the shape of the breasts.
  2. Facelift – This procedure can help reduce the signs of aging on the face and neck by tightening the skin and muscles and removing excess fat and tissue.
  3. Liposuction – This procedure involves removing excess fat from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, thighs, or hips, through suction.
  4. Botox Injections – Botox is a cosmetic treatment that involves injecting a small amount of botulinum toxin into the muscles to paralyze them and temporarily reduce wrinkles’ appearance.

It’s important to note that while these procedures can improve a person’s appearance and self-confidence, they also carry risks and potential complications.

Both plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery procedures carry risks and potential complications, and it’s important to carefully consider the risks and benefits before undergoing any procedure. It’s also important to choose a qualified and experienced surgeon who has a deep
understanding of the specific procedure you’re considering.

Procedure Costs of Cosmetic Surgeries vs Plastic Surgeries

The cost of cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery procedures can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of procedure, the geographic location of the practice, the experience of the surgeon, and the extent of the procedure. Cosmetic surgery procedures are generally considered elective, meaning they are not medically necessary and are, therefore, typically not covered by insurance. As a result, patients who choose cosmetic procedures are responsible for paying for the entire cost of the procedure out-of-pocket.

The cost of cosmetic surgery procedures can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands or more, depending on the procedure and the surgeon’s experience. For example, a breast augmentation procedure may range from $3,000 to $10,000, while a facelift procedure may cost between $7,000 and $15,000.

Plastic surgery procedures, on the other hand, may be deemed medically necessary in certain cases, such as in the case of reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy or other medical condition. In these cases, the cost of the procedure may be partially or fully covered by insurance.

However, if a plastic surgery procedure is not considered medically necessary, it is typically considered elective and is not covered by insurance. As with cosmetic surgery, the cost of plastic surgery can vary widely depending on the procedure and the surgeon’s experience. For example, a rhinoplasty procedure may range from $5,000 to $15,000, while a tummy tuck procedure may cost between $6,000 and $10,000.

It is important to note that the cost of a procedure should not be the only factor considered when choosing a surgeon or deciding to undergo an operation. Patients should also consider the surgeon’s experience and qualifications and the potential risks and benefits of the procedure before making a decision. Patients should also discuss their options with their surgeon and explore any financing or payment options that may be available to help make the procedure more affordable.

What Is a Reconstructive Surgery?

Reconstructive plastic surgery is performed to restore the form and function of body parts that have been damaged or lost due to injury, illness, or congenital defects. Reconstructive plastic surgery aims to repair the affected area and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Some examples of reconstructive plastic surgery procedures include breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, repairing cleft lips and palates, repairing damage from burns or trauma, and reconstructing limbs or facial features following a serious injury.

Reconstructive plastic surgery may involve techniques such as skin grafting, tissue expansion, and microsurgery to repair or replace damaged tissue. The procedures may be complex and require multiple surgeries, and may also involve post-operative physical therapy or rehabilitation to restore function to the affected area.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is often covered by health insurance when it is deemed medically necessary. It is important for patients to work closely with their medical team to understand the risks and benefits of reconstructive surgery and to have realistic expectations about the procedure’s outcome.


Cosmetic Surgeon vs. Plastic Surgeon Salary

Plastic and cosmetic surgeons’ salaries can vary based on several factors, including location, years of experience, and specialty within the field.

Here is a breakdown of the average salaries for these two types of surgeons:

  • Cosmetic Surgeon Salary:

According to salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for physicians and surgeons (including cosmetic surgeons) is around $208,000. However, it’s important to note that this figure includes all types of physicians and surgeons, and salaries can vary widely based on specialty and location. According to a survey by Medscape, the average salary for plastic surgeons in the United States in 2020 was $479,000, while the average salary for dermatologists, many of whom also perform cosmetic procedures, was $455,000.

  • Plastic Surgeon Salary:

According to the Medscape survey, the average salary for a plastic surgeon in the United States is also reported to be around $479,000. However, plastic surgeons specializing in certain procedures, such as craniofacial or hand surgery, may earn higher salaries due to the complexity of their work.

It’s worth noting that both plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons typically work long hours and have demanding schedules, as they may be required to perform surgeries at odd hours or be on call for emergencies. Additionally, many surgeons work in private practice and are responsible for managing their own business operations, which can add additional stress and responsibility.

In conclusion, plastic and cosmetic surgeons are highly skilled medical professionals who perform important work in their respective fields. While salaries can vary widely based on several factors, both types of surgeons can earn high incomes due to their education, experience, and expertise.

Breast Surgeon vs. Plastic Surgeon

Breast surgeons and plastic surgeons are both medical professionals who specialize in different aspects of breast surgery.

Breast surgeons are trained to treat breast diseases, such as breast cancer, and typically focus on surgical procedures related to diagnosing and treating breast cancer. They may perform biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies, and lymph node surgeries to remove cancerous tissue and prevent the spread of the disease.

On the other hand, plastic surgeons are trained to perform a wide range of surgical procedures to reconstruct, enhance, or reshape different body areas, including the breasts. Plastic surgeons may perform breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, and breast reconstruction surgeries, among other procedures.

While there is some overlap in the types of procedures that both types of surgeons may perform, there are some key differences in their training and expertise. Breast surgeons typically have specialized training in breast surgery and may work closely with oncologists and other medical professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients with breast cancer. Plastic surgeons, on the other hand, may have more expertise in aesthetic breast procedures and focus on enhancing the appearance of the breasts rather than treating specific medical conditions.

In some cases, a patient may need both a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon to provide comprehensive care. For example, a breast surgeon may perform a mastectomy to remove cancerous tissue, while a plastic surgeon may perform breast reconstruction surgery to restore the appearance of the breast.


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