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Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery: the devil is in the details. Parcells Plastic Surgery

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Interested in trying Botox? A Juvéderm filler? A laser resurfacing procedure? 

You may want to see a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon for that.

Individuals seeking out a cosmetic procedure often assume that cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons have the same training and that the word plastic and cosmetic are interchangeable. 

This is misleading, confusing, and can even be dangerous. 

As a board-certified Plastic surgeon, I often refer to my practice as a mix of reconstructive (i.e. breast reconstruction) and cosmetic, because I’ve had extensive training in both. 

However, properly Board-Certified Plastic Surgeons do not refer to themselves as “cosmetic surgeons.”

What is Plastic Surgery?

The goal of plastic surgery is to restore the form (appearance) and function to a damaged area of the body. 

Plastic surgeons use a variety of techniques to move healthy tissue to an area affected by a birth defect, burn, traumatic injury, tumor, or other condition. Some plastic surgeons may focus on congenital defects (cleft lips), hand trauma, breast reconstruction, as well as cosmetic surgery.

What is Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic Surgery is a combination of nonsurgical and surgical techniques to enhance appearance. Examples include facelifts, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), liposuction, and Botox or Juvéderm fillers. 

What’s the difference between a Plastic Surgeon vs a Cosmetic Surgeon?

Legally, any physician with a valid medical license can perform cosmetic procedures, regardless of their training. I know, this is unbelievable. However, because of a number of factors - including declining insurance reimbursement and stress of keeping a practice financially secure - many physicians are looking towards elective cash-based procedures to survive.  

Several organizations have established “cliffs notes-type” courses with the goal of training these physicians in the same procedures that I, as a Plastic Surgeon, was trained to due over 6 years in my residency. 

Think about it: an emergency room physician with no surgical training goes to take a 2 week “crash course” on breast augmentation and is now ready to advertise as a cosmetic surgeon. 

And while your OB/GYN is offering you Botox or filler after a weekend training in cosmetic surgery, he or she may not be offering the best treatment, nor be able to handle complications (because OB/GYNs did not have focused training in facial anatomy). Scary, right?

On the flip side, a board-certified plastic surgeon would be able to offer the full scope of cosmetic options and let you know what works best for your body and your desires because we have been specifically trained to do so, without any shortcuts. Expertise cannot be achieved with a quick weekend course.

What does it take to become a board-certified plastic surgeon?

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In order to become a board-certified plastic surgeon, an individual must complete 

Four years of medical education and obtain a medical degree (MD or DO) 

A minimum of 6 years of accredited surgical residency training with at least 3 years of education dedicated to cosmetic and reconstructive surgery

Pass both written and oral examinations. At this point, he/she is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

Remain in good ethical standing within their community and the board, as well as routinely participate in continuing medical education (CME) on the latest innovations and abide by up-to-date patient safety recommendations.

What if my doctor says he/she is Board Certified in Cosmetic Surgery?

At this time, there is no formal certification in Cosmetic Surgery and so anyone claiming to be board certified in this area is actually recognized only by a self-created organization (American Board of Cosmetic Surgery) and not an official licensing board by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

In this situation, I encourage you to ask him or her a few more questions.  Ask about his/her background training (what is he really certified in), ask him/her how many of these specific procedures he has performed, and ask him/her how many years he/she has been practicing.  You might be surprised at what he/she says…and even more by what he/she does not.

How do I know if my surgeon is board-certified in plastic surgery?

Check online, and if in doubt, ask your potential surgeon which board they are certified in. 

How do I find a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon? 

You can easily find a list of local board-certified plastic surgeons by visiting the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

When meeting with your surgeon, ask which board (i.e. Internal Medicine vs. Plastic Surgery) she or he is certified in.

Lastly, If the surgeon routinely does procedures within an office operating room, ask them where they have privileges. A reputable hospital will only accredit a board-certified plastic surgeon.

At the end of the day, it’s your body. And when it comes to your time, energy, and money, you should do the proper background research to ensure you are in the best hands. 

Parcells Plastic Surgery offers the most advanced surgical and cosmetic medical spa treatments to women in New Jersey.

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Alexis Parcells is here to educate and empower you to celebrate your natural beauty.

4 Industrial Way West #101, Eatontown, New Jersey 07724
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