Plastic surgeon’s universal warning

Consumers looking to have cosmetic surgery will often land on a plastic surgeon’s website who has big warning messages to make sure consumers only go to board-certified plastic surgeons.  The consumer has no idea about the difference between a board-certified plastic surgeon and a board-certified cosmetic surgeon.  However, from the message on the plastic surgeon’s website or social media, they assume that the plastic surgeon has had more training in cosmetic aesthetic surgery, has better results, and fewer complications.  Consumers’ misapprehension in this regard has them relying on incomplete and false information when choosing a physician to perform their cosmetic procedure.

The “message” often repeated in various forums and published in advertisements by various board-certified plastic surgeons across the country over the past several decades falsely and deceptively informs consumers that:

  • Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery evidences competency in cosmetic surgery
  • Physicians who are not certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are not competent to perform cosmetic surgery
  • The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only “recognized” board with regard to the practice of cosmetic surgery
  • The term “plastic surgery” is synonymous with “cosmetic surgery” or that the term “plastic surgeon” is synonymous with “cosmetic surgeon”

This misinformation has consumers believing that when searching for a cosmetic surgeon to perform cosmetic surgery, they must look only to board-certified plastic surgeons and that they cannot find a competent board-certified cosmetic surgeon.  

So what’s the difference?

Cosmetic surgery is a subspecialty that uniquely restricts itself to the enhancement of appearance through surgical and medical techniques. It is specifically concerned with maintaining normal appearance, restoring it, or enhancing it toward some aesthetic ideal. Cosmetic surgery is a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive approach directed to all areas of the head, neck, and body. Board-certified cosmetic surgeons are surgeons from a variety of fields who have undergone post-residency fellowship training in cosmetic surgery.  Unlike cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, crainomaxillofacial structure, hand extremities, breast and trunk, and external genitalia. While board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery may evidence a physician competent in “plastic surgery,” it does not evidence competency in “cosmetic surgery” nor does it demonstrate more “cosmetic surgery ” education, training, or experience than that of a board-certified cosmetic surgeon. In fact, many plastic surgeons after finishing residency go into an “aesthetic fellowship” to get more training in cosmetic surgery.  

So how do I choose? 

Hopefully, it’s clear by now that a board-certified plastic surgeon does NOT mean they are more qualified, have better results, and/or fewer complications than a board-certified cosmetic surgeon.  If you are considering having cosmetic surgery then look to see that the surgeon is board-certified in either cosmetic or plastic surgery.  Then look to see if the surgeon, the office, the staff are the right fit for you.  Look at their online reviews.  Talk to patients who have had surgery with them. Set up a consult to ask questions and see if you are comfortable. Most cosmetic surgeries are part of a journey for the consumer.  You want to make sure you have a surgeon that you feel comfortable with as you talk about your surgery, undergo the surgery, and recover.   The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery also has helpful information on choosing a surgeon.  https://www.cosmeticsurgery.org/page/ChoosingaSurgeon

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