What is the Difference Between Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery?


What is the Difference Between Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery?

Plastic surgery is the all-encompassing term referring to a surgical specialty that involves reconstructing, repairing, revising or restoring parts of the human body either for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes. Plastic surgery takes its name from the Greek word plastike which translates to form, mold, or the art of modeling and can be performed to either improve function, aesthetic appearance, or both. Plastic surgery falls into 2 categories: cosmetic and reconstructive. What is the difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery?

The main difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery is that cosmetic surgery is done to amplify or augment appearance and reconstructive surgery is done to repair or rebuild a part of the body due to trauma, injury or disease. Cosmetic surgery refers exclusively to enhancement or rejuvenation in appearance such as body contouring (liposuction, tummy tuck), breast surgery (breast reduction, breast lift, breast augmentation), facial rejuvenation (brow lift, neck lift, eyelid lift, facelift) and skin rejuvenation (Botox, dermal fillers, laser resurfacing). Reconstructive surgery covers a broad scope of procedure types that work to restore or repair the body’s normal appearance and function that can include cosmetic surgery as well as scar revision, hand surgery, lower extremity reconstruction, congenital defect repair, burn repair and breast reconstruction. Another notable difference between the 2 surgery types is that cosmetic surgery is rarely covered under insurance, but reconstructive surgery is generally covered by most health insurance plans. Cosmetic is considered elective whereas reconstructive is arguably necessary.

As another example of the difference between the 2 parts of plastic surgery, consider the comparison of plastic surgery procedures that alter the breasts. Breast augmentation would fall under cosmetic surgery; breast reconstruction after a mastectomy would fall under reconstructive surgery. Breast surgery is also an example of where the 2 types of surgery can overlap, and the patient can benefit for both cosmetic and reconstructive reasons.

The last notable difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery is in the certification of the surgeon. It is highly recommended that patients choose board-certified surgeons, but is there a difference in which board they are certified under? The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the most notable board certification that requires surgeons to have 6-8 years of specialized training through an accredited program in plastic surgery including an array of exams and continuing education. Conversely, the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) provides certification in cosmetic surgery only allowing dentists, dermatologists, and oral surgeons to distinguish themselves as cosmetic surgeons.

To learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive surgery options at David W. Allison, MD, request a consultation by calling 703-754-8228 or WEBSITE.  

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