We often hear the terms ‘plastic surgery’ and ‘cosmetic surgery’ used interchangeably. However, these two fields, while closely related, are not the same. They differ in their goals, the training required for the specialists who perform them, and the types of procedures they include.
What is Plastic Surgery?
At its core, plastic surgery is a broad field that involves the restoration, reconstruction, or alteration of the human body. This field of surgery is generally broken down into two categories: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery.
Reconstructive plastic surgery is performed to correct functional impairments caused by burns, traumatic injuries, congenital abnormalities, infection, disease, and cancer. Reconstructive procedures often involve surgeries like burn repair surgery, scar revision, hand surgery, and microsurgery. The goal of these procedures is to restore function and maintain a normal appearance.
What is Cosmetic Surgery?
Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, is a subset of plastic surgery that focuses solely on enhancing a person’s appearance. Its goal is to improve aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion. It’s an optional procedure carried out to improve a person’s self-image and self-confidence.
Common cosmetic procedures include breast augmentation, rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), liposuction, tummy tucks, and facelifts. Unlike reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery is typically performed on patients who are already in good health.
Different Types of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeries
Understanding the differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery is crucial. But equally important is to review the various types of each. Let’s explore some of the most common procedures in each category.
Common Plastic Surgeries
These surgeries are performed to treat structures of the body affected aesthetically or functionally by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors or disease. From cleft lip and palate repair to mastectomy reconstruction, the main goal of reconstructive surgery is to disguise the damage and restore function.
Hand surgery is a specialized field within plastic surgery that treats conditions that cause pain and impair the strength, function, and flexibility of your wrist and fingers. This could include carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or injuries that impact the hand and wrist.
Burn surgery can be divided into two phases: acute and reconstructive. Acute burn care occurs immediately after the injury. Reconstructive (or secondary) burn surgery takes place after the burn wounds have healed.
Common Cosmetic Surgeries
More commonly known as a ‘nose job,’ rhinoplasty is a surgical procedure that alters the shape of the nose to improve its appearance or function. Surgeons can make the nose larger or smaller, adjust the angle, reshape the tip, or correct bumps, indentations, or other defects.
Breast augmentation involves using implants or fat transfer to increase breast size or restore breast volume that has been lost after weight reduction or pregnancy. This procedure can also achieve a more rounded breast shape or improve natural breast size asymmetry.
Liposuction is a cosmetic surgical procedure that removes excess fat deposits to improve body contours and proportion. It can be performed on the hips, belly, thighs, buttocks, back, arms, and under the chin or face to improve their shape.
The Process: From Consultation to Recovery
The journey to plastic or cosmetic surgery begins with a consultation. This is an opportunity to discuss your goals with your surgeon and get a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. The surgeon will review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, discuss your expectations, and suggest the most suitable surgical options. Find a cosmetic plastic surgeon.
Depending on the type of surgery you opt for, different techniques will be used. However, all surgeries involve some form of anesthesia, making incisions, and changes to the body’s structure. Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions on preparing for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications.
The postoperative period is a critical time for healing and achieving the best results. The duration of this phase varies depending on the type of surgery. Some surgeries may require an overnight stay in the hospital, while others may be done on an outpatient basis. Regardless of the procedure, it’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.
Factors to Consider Before Undergoing Cosmetic or Plastic Surgery
Before undergoing any cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure, there are several factors to consider, including:
- The qualifications and experience of the surgeon
- The potential risks and complications of the procedure
- The cost of the procedure and whether insurance covers it
- The recovery time and the impact it may have on daily activities
- Realistic expectations for the results of the procedure
Tips to Follow For Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery
Before you go for a cosmetic surgery procedure, it is essential to weigh its risks and benefits. Following are some useful tips that you should follow.
- Always to a licensed professional and experienced surgeon. You should check the credentials. (4)
- As soon as you consult with your surgeon, it is time to make your own decision and know your preferences. Always ask questions related to surgery from the surgeon to clear all confusions.
- Inquire about the limitations and risks of the surgery.
- Select the right date for your surgery. For example, avoid going for surgery when you are going through a stressful event, like moving, having a baby, bereavement and switching jobs.
- Cosmetic surgery is for personal satisfaction. Never go for cosmetic surgery to impress or please anyone else.
- Find cosmetic options near you. Avoid traveling for cosmetic surgery. In case, you need to travel, then ensure the arrangements are reliable. Learn about cosmetic surgery costs.
Cosmetic Surgery & Plastic Surgery Risks
Cosmetic surgery, like any surgery, carries certain risks and potential complications. Some of the risks associated with cosmetic surgery include:
- Anesthesia complications: There is a risk of complications with any type of anesthesia, including allergic reactions or breathing problems.
- Infection: Any surgical procedure has a risk of infection, which can be treated with antibiotics but in some cases, could cause serious problems.
- Hematoma: This is a collection of blood outside of blood vessels and can cause pain, swelling and discoloration of the skin.
- Scarring: All surgical procedures result in some degree of scarring. In the case of cosmetic surgery, the scars may be visible, especially in procedures such as facelift, tummy tuck or breast surgery.
- Imperfections and asymmetry: There is always a risk that the final result may not be perfect and that asymmetry may occur in the healing process.
- Nerve damage: In some cases, nerves may be damaged during surgery, which can result in temporary or permanent loss of sensation or muscle function.
- Unsatisfactory results: In some cases, patients may be dissatisfied with the final outcome, which can lead to additional procedures to correct or improve the results.
These risks may vary depending on the type of surgery and your personal health condition. Follow the surgeon’s post-operative instructions to minimize the risk of complications. Carefully research and choose a qualified, experienced surgeon to perform the procedure.
Recovery From Cosmetic Surgery & Plastic Surgery
The recovery process from cosmetic surgery can vary depending on the type of procedure, the individual’s overall health, and the surgeon’s specific post-operative instructions. However, there are some general steps that can be expected during the recovery process.
- Immediately after surgery: The patient will be moved to a recovery room where they will be closely monitored by medical staff. The patient may feel groggy or disoriented due to the effects of the anesthesia. They will likely experience some pain, swelling, and bruising.
- First few days: The patient will need to rest and allow their body to heal. They will be given pain medication to manage any discomfort. The patient will be instructed to keep the incision area clean, to avoid strenuous activities, and may also be instructed to wear compression clothing depending on the procedure.
- First week: The patient may be able to return to work or daily activities, but will still need to avoid any strenuous activities or lifting heavy objects. They will also need to avoid bending or stretching the surgical area, as well as exposing the area to sunlight.
- First month: As the healing process continues, the patient will notice a gradual improvement in the appearance of the surgical area. The swelling, bruising, and pain will begin to subside. The patient should continue to follow post-operative instructions and avoid any activities that could cause injury or harm to the surgical area.
- Long-term: The final result of the cosmetic surgery will be visible after some months, but the patient should avoid exposing the surgical area to sun, and other harmful agents, or heavy-duty physical activity as advised by the surgeon. The patient should also be careful to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, to maintain the best results.
Recovery times may vary, but it’s important to have realistic expectations about the time required for recovery, and be patient during the healing process. Follow the surgeon’s post-operative instructions closely and to contact the surgeon if there are any concerns or complications during the recovery process.
How Do You Become a Cosmetic / Plastic Surgeon
Becoming a cosmetic surgeon typically requires a significant investment of time and dedication. The path to becoming a cosmetic surgeon typically involves the following steps:
- Undergraduate education: You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biology, chemistry, or pre-med.
- Medical school: After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to attend and graduate from an accredited medical school. This typically takes four years.
- Residency training: After completing medical school, you will need to complete a surgical residency program, which typically takes several years. This will provide you with the hands-on training you need to become a skilled surgeon.
- Fellowship: After completing your surgical residency, you will need to complete a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery or cosmetic surgery.
- Board certification: After completing your fellowship, you will need to become certified by the relevant certification board. You will have to pass a rigorous exam, and maintain the certification.
- Continuing education: As a licensed physician, you will be required to complete continuing education courses throughout your career to maintain your license to practice and stay current with advances in the field.
The process can take up to 14 years or more and the education requirement alone can be quite demanding. Many surgery residencies are highly competitive, and the process of becoming a cosmetic surgeon can be costly, as well as time-consuming. Lean about the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon.
Cosmetic surgery is a sub-specialty of plastic surgery and you can become a cosmetic surgeon only if you are already a plastic surgeon, who has completed additional training in cosmetic surgery. How to Pick a Cosmetic Surgeon.
Find a plastic surgeon near me.
- Is cosmetic surgery covered by insurance?
- Most cosmetic surgery procedures are considered elective and are not covered by insurance.
- How long is the recovery time for cosmetic surgery?
- Recovery times can vary depending on the procedure and the individual, but generally range from a few days to several weeks.
- Can cosmetic surgery be reversed?
- While some cosmetic surgery procedures can be reversed, such as Botox injections, others cannot, such as breast augmentation.
- How much does cosmetic surgery cost?
- The cost of cosmetic surgery varies depending on the procedure and the location, but can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
- Is plastic surgery only for reconstructive purposes?
- While plastic surgery is commonly used for reconstructive purposes, it can also be used for cosmetic purposes to enhance the appearance of a body part.
- Can plastic surgery be covered by insurance?
- Plastic surgery may be covered by insurance if it is deemed medically necessary, such as reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy.
- What is the difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery?
- Cosmetic surgery is a type of plastic surgery that is focused on enhancing the appearance of a body part, while plastic surgery can be either reconstructive or cosmetic.
- How long does plastic surgery take?
- The length of a plastic surgery procedure can vary depending on the type of surgery and the individual, but generally ranges from several hours to a full day.
- Is there an age limit for plastic surgery?
- There is no specific age limit for plastic surgery, but the individual’s overall health and medical history will be taken into consideration before undergoing any procedure.
Learn about Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Awareness Day
The Power of Choice in Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery
In the end, the decision to undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery is a deeply personal one. The goal of both types of surgeries is to improve a person’s quality of life, whether that’s through restoring normal appearance and function (plastic surgery) or enhancing appearance and boosting self-confidence (cosmetic surgery).
The power of choice in plastic and cosmetic surgery lies in the ability to make informed decisions. The journey should be embarked on with thorough research, careful consideration, and consultation with a qualified professional. After all, the ultimate goal is to feel better in your skin, and that’s a choice worth making.
Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery References
- MedlinePlus. “Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2021, https://medlineplus.gov/plasticandcosmeticsurgery.html.
- Abdominal wall surgery (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Breast augmentation surgery (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Breast lift (Medical Encyclopedia) A
- Chin augmentation (Medical Encyclopedia)
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