Plastic versus Cosmetic Surgeons: What are the Differences?

When considering cosmetic surgery, it is essential to ensure that checks are made on the qualifications of your chosen surgeon and that no stone is left unturned.

Having surgery of this kind is a very personal choice, so going into the process properly equipped with knowledge is vital. Often, there can be confusion about the different types of surgeons and surgical procedures available. That’s why we’re addressing the common misconception that plastic and cosmetic surgeons serve the same purpose.

So, what are the differences between plastic and cosmetic surgeons?

  1. Both have different end goals

While both plastic and cosmetic surgery aim to improve a patient’s experience of life through an appearance change, the motivations and patient outcomes for both types of surgery are quite different.

Plastic surgery can be seen as more of a treatment, which is reconstructive in its nature, and is used more commonly to treat areas of the body which are affected functionally or aesthetically by infection, disease, developmental abnormalities, trauma or tumours.

Although cosmetic surgery is a branch of plastic surgery, it is generally designed to reshape the lives of patients through enhancements; the main focus is on augmenting a patient’s appearance rather than improving the functionality of areas of the body.

According to the NHS, the main aim of plastic surgery is to restore the function of tissues and skin to as close to normal as possible. Although seen as important, improving the appearance of body parts is considered a secondary aim.

A good example to illustrate the differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery would be breast treatment. Having a breast reconstructed after a mastectomy would be considered plastic surgery and would only be performed by a plastic surgeon. This is because the surgery is reconstructive, stemming from a disease or defect in the body.

However, a breast lift, to reshape the appearance of the breast, would be a cosmetic procedure as it is designed to enhance a healthy breast, rather than to reconstruct it.

Most cosmetic surgery is not funded by the NHS as it is considered elective.

  1. The training and qualifications are different

As a general rule, a plastic surgeon can perform both plastic and cosmetic procedures but most cosmetic surgeons cannot perform plastic surgery.

All surgeons at St Hugh’s Hospital have to be highly qualified, but cosmetic surgeons are not required to undergo such extensive training as the scope of their treatments is much shorter than plastic surgery.

Surgeons must pass Core Surgical Training – Years 1 & 2 to assess and fine-tune their basic surgical competencies after undergoing five to six years at medical school.

The difference comes when the surgeon chooses to specialise; a cosmetic surgeon will then undertake dedicated training in their chosen field to develop their abilities based on the anatomical area they wish to specialise in.

When considering cosmetic surgery, it is of paramount importance that checks are made on the qualifications of your chosen surgeon, as there can be a number of unregulated or inappropriate surgeons operating with only a basic medical degree.

Opting to have either plastic or cosmetic surgery is a major decision which you must carefully consider with the help of consultants before you make any commitment.

One similarity of both types of surgery is undeniable: when done correctly, it can change a patient’s life for the better.

The surgeons with practising privileges at HMT St Hugh’s Hospital are:

Mr Alastair Platt, Plastic Surgeon, BAPRAS, Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgery Surgeon.

Mr Muhammad Riaz, Plastic Surgeon, BAPRAS, Tutor Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon.

For more information about the variety of procedures on offer at St Hugh’s, visit our treatments page.