About Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic Surgery is performed by many specialties in medicine including Plastic Surgeons, Otorhinolaryngologists (ENT) and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The term “plastic surgery” is not synonymous with cosmetic surgery and “plastic” usually instills negative connotations with regards to the results of surgery looking “doll-like” or “stretched.” Residency training varies within each specialty and varies amongst specialties with regards to the specific amount of training a resident receives in cosmetic surgery. Therefore no one specialty has a claim to be the only providers as “cosmetic surgeons.” Rather, sub-specialty training (such as a hand surgeon, ear specialist, head and neck cancer surgeon or cosmetic surgeon) is based on the individual’s specific case experience as a senior level resident with post-residency training (Fellowship) of usually one year of concentrated experience.

Choosing your Cosmetic Surgeon can be an overwhelming process. There are many questions and misconceptions about cosmetic surgery today. Below is information that is aimed to clarify these issues.

What is the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck and body. Because treated areas function properly but lack aesthetic appeal, cosmetic surgery is elective.

Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature.

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons has designed a special patient education brochure explaining the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery, and how to choose your cosmetic surgeon. This brochure clears up misconceptions in the media, issues about board-certification and the multi-disciplinary nature of cosmetic surgery and can be found at www.cosmeticsurgery.org.

How does the education differ between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?

As there is no residency program specifically focused on cosmetic surgery, physicians who wish to pursue cosmetic surgery have different backgrounds. First, a physician must go through medical school and a residency program, preferably in a surgical specialty such as general surgery, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), maxillofacial surgery or plastic surgery. After proving competent in anatomy, physiology, pathology and basic sciences, a physician may attain board certification in their specialty and then continue their post-residency training specifically in cosmetic surgery. This can be done through a fellowship program (a one-on-one observational and training program with an experienced cosmetic surgeon), as well as through workshops, seminars and lectures.

Plastic surgeons follow the same educational timeline as many cosmetic surgeons. After finishing medical school then completing a residency in plastic surgery, learning to treat defects of the face and body including tumors, cleft palates, deformities, hand repair and burn injuries. A physician may then become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. At this point, a plastic surgeon may take the same steps as a general surgeon or dermatologic surgeon to gain experience in cosmetic surgery – through a fellowship training program, workshops, seminars and lectures, and then become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery after gaining more experience.

Choosing your cosmetic surgeon should be based on an examination of several parameters.

  • Does your cosmetic surgeon have adequate residency training related to the procedures they perform in practice?
  • Does your cosmetic surgeon have experience in the performance of these procedures in private practice since he/she completed his/her residency?
  • Does your cosmetic surgeon have Fellowship Training beyond residency which focused specifically on cosmetic surgery?
  • Is the majority of your surgeon’s practice dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and management of the cosmetic surgery patient?
  • Do you feel comfortable that your cosmetic surgeon understands your concerns and goals?
  • Do you feel that your cosmetic surgeon cares about your safety and utilizes current state-of-the-art technology to minimize risk, minimize incisions and maximize benefits?
  • Is your cosmetic surgeon focused on continuing education?
  • Is your cosmetic surgeon a teacher of other surgeons?
  • Does your cosmetic surgeon seem to have a gentle bedside manner?
  • Is your cosmetic surgeon willing to show you “before and after” photographs of other patients which he/she has treated and does he/she have patients who he/she has treated who are willing to talk to you before you decide to proceed further?

Dr. Vigliante can answer a simple “yes” to all of these critically important questions.

For more information please visit www.cosmeticsurgery.org.