What is the difference between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon?

Patients who are contemplating Cosmetic Surgery are generally unaware of the difference between Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery. As a result patients are of the opinion that a qualification in Plastic Surgery is a guarantee of a Surgeon’s experience and competence to perform Cosmetic Surgery. This is not the case. 

This misperception arises because generally the media regards Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery as the same thing, which it is not. This has the effect of confusing patients and the general public which may adversely affect patient’s decision making when choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon.

The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery was established in 1999. It is currently the only body in Australia to train, accredit and certify doctors and surgeons specifically in Cosmetic Surgery. Once a doctor has met and passed the preliminary surgical training and a further 2 years of Cosmetic Surgery training only then are they conferred Surgical Fellowship status of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery. The trainee Cosmetic Surgeons train with experienced and world class Cosmetic Surgeons.

Significantly many of the Fellows of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery are qualified Surgeons in other Surgical specialities and disciplines and undertook the Fellowship training program with the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery in order to perform Cosmetic Surgery. Cosmetic Surgery training is not offered in the Plastics program when Plastic Surgeons receive their training. 

What is the difference between Cosmetic Surgery and a Plastic Surgery?

Cosmetic Surgery is surgery that improves or enhances the appearance of a patient. This can be achieved using either surgical or non-surgical techniques (or both) and can be practised by surgeons from a variety of medical disciplines who have been trained in Cosmetic Surgery with  the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgeons (ACCS).

Plastic Surgery, however, is surgery that involves the reconstruction or restoration of a patient’s appearance or function of some part of the body that has been affected by trauma, disease, cancer or birth defect. This is not Cosmetic Surgery.

Plastic Surgeons receive their training in Plastic Surgery at Public Hospitals, such as in Trauma Units. Training programs in Plastic Surgery at Public Hospitals generally do not provide extensive training in Cosmetic Surgery procedures. More importantly Public Hospitals do not provide sufficient training to enable a Plastic Surgeon to perform Cosmetic Surgery procedures competently. As Cosmetic Surgery is not practised at Public Hospitals, Plastic Surgery Trainees do not have the exposure or training in the numerous cosmetic procedures a Cosmetic Surgeon requires as a minimum to be sufficiently skilled at to competently perform Cosmetic Surgery.

As a result a Plastic Surgeon or a Surgeon can become a fully accredited Plastic Surgeon through Public Hospital training without performing any Cosmetic Surgery procedures! Plastic Surgeons who claim to be experts in Cosmetic Surgery by virtue of their training in Plastic Surgery may be misleading and confusing the public and patients.

However,  if a Plastic Surgeon wishes to practise Cosmetic Surgery (after becoming a Plastic Surgeon) they have the option to receive training and develop their Cosmetic Surgical skills after they leave Public Hospital training, and only through their own additional self-directed training specifically in cosmetic surgery procedures. The Plastic Surgeon can then claim he has Cosmetic Surgical skills.

If Plastic Surgeons choose not to do any Cosmetic Surgery training, they are NOT Cosmetic Surgeons.

A Plastic Surgeon title is ONLY an assurance the Surgeon is proficient in Plastic Surgery; it isnot an assurance that the Surgeon is competent to perform Cosmetic Surgery.

Despite this there are numerous Plastic Surgeons who knowingly associate Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery as one and the same thing, when it is not. This can be confusing for prospective patients.

This misconception has the propensity to mislead patients who are confused when Plastic Surgeon use the terms Plastic and Cosmetic interchangeably. This is often repeated in the media, public forums and advertising and has mislead patients into believing that only Plastic Surgeons are qualified and able to perform Cosmetic Surgery.

The public and patients should understand that

  1. • A degree in Plastic Surgery is NOT evidence of competency in Cosmetic Surgery
  2. • The Australasian College of Cosmetics Surgeons is the only college in Australia that provides training and experience in Cosmetic Surgery for Cosmetic Surgeons.
  3. • The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons is NOT the only “recognised” body with regard to the practice of Cosmetic Surgery.
  4. • The term Plastic Surgery is NOT synonymous with Cosmetic Surgery
  5. • Plastic Surgeon is NOT synonymous with Cosmetic Surgeon
  6. • Doctors who are not qualified Plastic Surgeons but who have received Cosmetic Surgery training through ACCS, are able to competently perform Cosmetic Surgery

As Published on the Me Clinic Website ref: http://www.meclinic.com/au/why-the-me-clinic/cosmetic-surgeons-v-plastic-surgeons.html

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