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Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery

Plastic surgery is a medical specialty that uses a number of surgical and nonsurgical techniques to change the appearance and function of a person’s body. Plastic surgery procedures include both cosmetic enhancements as well as functionally reconstructive operations. In the former case, where aesthetics are considered more important than functionality, plastic surgery is sometimes referred to as cosmetic surgery. Most procedures involve both aesthetic and functional elements.

The word “plastic” derives from the Greek plastikos meaning to mold or to shape; its use here is not connected with the synthetic polymer material known as plastic. Plastic surgeons typically mold and reshape the following tissues of the body: bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, and skin.

Cosmetic surgery is a very popular form of plastic surgery. As an example, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that in 2006 nearly 11 million cosmetic plastic surgeries were performed in the United States alone.

Within the U.S,. critics of plastic surgery note that it is legal for any doctor, regardless of speciality, to perform cosmetic surgery. It is thus important to distinguish the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery”: Plastic Surgery is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties as the subspecialty dedicated to the surgical repair of defects of form or function — this includes cosmetic (or aesthetic) surgery, as well as reconstructive surgery. The term “cosmetic surgery” however, refers to surgery that is designed to improve cosmetics, or appearance. In several countries including Australia, many doctors who are not qualified as surgeons also perform cosmetic procedures.

The most prevalent aesthetic/cosmetic procedures are listed below. Most of these types of surgery are more commonly known by their “common names.” These are also listed when pertinent.

In recent years, a growing number of patients seeking cosmetic surgery have visited other countries to find doctors with lower costs. These medical tourists get their procedures done for up 50 percent or more cost savings in countries including Cuba, Thailand, Argentina, India, and some areas of eastern Europe. The risk of complications and the lack of after surgery support are often overlooked by those simply looking for the cheapest option.

Plastic surgery overlaps with other medical specialties that are distinct specialties certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties, including Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology. These sub-specialties require separate sub-specialty fellowship training after complete speciality residency training. Unfortunately, these sub-specialists continue to use the term “general plastic surgeon” on their educational and mission statements to make “general plastic surgeons” seem less qualified to perform operations of the face or eyes. This is not true, as there is no such term as “general plastic surgery”, there is only “plastic surgery”, which is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the governing board of physicians in the USA, whereas “facial plastic surgery” and “oculoplastic surgery” are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. For instance, a layperson wishing plastic surgery of his or her face would think a “facial plastic surgeon” sounds more appropriate than a “general plastic surgeon” if given only those two choices, whereas the distinction between “facial plastic surgeon” and “plastic surgeon” sounds more similar — this is an example of how the term “general plastic surgery” is deceptive and should be avoided.

Facial plastic surgery is plastic & reconstructive surgery of the head & neck region. Traditionally developed as a post-cancer reconstruction specialty, the field of facial plastic surgery pioneered many cosmetic procedures that are utilized by many plastic surgeons, including the rhinoplasty and the deep-plane facelift. Specialists in this group have completed a one year fellowship after a traditional otolaryngology surgical residency program.

Ophthalmic plastic surgery (also known as oculoplastic surgery is plastic & reconstructive surgery of the region around the eyes. Traditionally developed as a specialty that developed techniques to reconstruct eyelids and to surgically treat the orbit and lachrymal system, the field of ophthalmic plastic surgery pioneered many cosmetic procedures that are utilized by many plastic surgeons, including the blepharoplasty and mid-face lift. Specialists in this group have completed a two year fellowship after a traditional ophthalmology surgical residency program.

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