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What’s the Difference Between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon?

There are important differences Between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon…

When a patient searches to find a plastic surgeon, one of the most common assumptions they make is that the terms “Cosmetic Surgeon” and “Plastic Surgeon” are interchangeable.

In fact, there are important distinctions between a cosmetic surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and a facial plastic surgeon. Understanding these distinctions can make the difference between achieving optimal results and risking the possibility of revisional surgery.

Not all surgeons are equally qualified to perform all procedures.

Moreover, the government does not regulate what type of procedures or surgery a doctor may perform. Occasionally, patients are unwittingly drawn by marketing and discount pricing to surgeons who lack proper training and experience in cosmetic plastic surgery.

While all surgeons need a state license to practice medicine, and some may even have board-certification in their chosen specialty, they do not need specialized board-certification to market themselves as a “Cosmetic Surgeon”. Consequently, cosmetic surgery is often performed by physicians who are not under the guidance of a properly credentialed board.

According to Dr. Steven J White of Dallas,

There are now OB/GYN doctors performing breast augmentation, liposuction, and tummy tucks, dermatologists performing liposuction, ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctors performing breast augmentation and tummy tucks, and even oral surgeons (dentists) performing facelifts, liposuction, and breast surgery. In many cases, these surgeons are board certified in their chosen specialty… but not in plastic surgery. A special point is frequently made to assure prospective patients that these surgeons are “board certified.”

This often accounts for the wide range of pricing and outcomes that patients notice when they start comparing surgeons.

Why Does Board-Certification Matter?

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports,

Board-certified members are held to the highest standards as it pertains to skills, knowledge, judgment, safety and ethics in that particular specialty…

Those who call themselves cosmetic surgeons typically belong to another board and can actually be a specialist in any number of other medical areas which are not certified or acknowledged to perform cosmetic procedures to these high standards. We’ve even seen disturbing examples of people with no medical training calling themselves cosmetic surgeons. Many doctors with surgical residencies are also performing whole body cosmetic procedures learned through non-accredited training.

A high level of surgical expertise is necessary to get the best and safest possible results.

While a non-board-certified surgeon might be able to learn to place a breast implant, would they know how to address complications if they arose? How often do they perform specialized procedures, like lift/augment, tummy tuck, facelift, rhinoplasty or revision of the aforementioned?

Typically, only a surgeon who understands the full extent of reconstruction is equipped to handle any potential problems. Moreover, someone who has narrowed their field of specialty will have a breadth and depth of practical experience on which to draw for optimal patient safety and satisfaction.

How Do I Find the “Right” Board-Certified Surgeon?

When you choose a surgeon, it’s also important to ensure one or more of their board-certifications are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. A few of the boards that have not been approved by the ABMS are as follows:

  • American Board of Cosmetic Plastic Surgery
  • Plastic Esthetic Surgery
  • Dermatologic Surgery
  • Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery

What Board-Certifications Do Dr. Restifo & Dr. Mao Have?

In the case of our practice, Dr. Restifo is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, while Dr. Mao is board-certified at the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, both recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Beyond that, Dr. Mao is also board-certified with the American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

In short, our surgeons have the ultra-specialized training, experience, and expertise that enable them to achieve the best and safest possible results for patients. Moreover, they perform their most popular procedures several times each week. In the case of something as life-altering as surgery, patients should expect no less.


For More Information, See Dr. Restifo’s Video:

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Posted in: Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, Uncategorized

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