Plastic Surgeons Vs Cosmetic Surgeons: What's The Difference?

Cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons are not interchangeable -- the difference is years of training.

The cosmetic industry is a billion dollar a year business, and as the industry grows, confusion about who is qualified to do what also grows.

In September last year, 220 woman launched a class action against The Cosmetic Institute, claiming their surgeries were botched by unqualified surgeons.

Despite using the term 'surgeon', these, and many other medical practitioners imply they have the training and skills to perform the surgeries they advertise.

Yet  few know the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon.

Cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons are not interchangeable -- the difference is years of training and level of qualification.

On the surface, plastic surgery is the reconstruction of a body part  that has been disfigured due to a birth defect or an injury or accident.

Cosmetic surgery is considered to be an "elective" procedure, most often to improve a person's aesthetics and self-esteem.

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To be able to call oneself a plastic surgeon, a person must complete at least eight years additional training after their initial medical degree, including specialist surgical training.

However, a medical practitioner does not require surgical training to practice under the title of cosmetic surgeon, and this is a concern according to Doctor Dan Kennedy of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

"Eye surgeons and neurosurgeons without proper qualifications would be run out of town pretty quickly," he said.

But this is not the case with cosmetic surgeons.

"Patients are often mislead by the term 'surgeon', and believe they are being treated by a practitioner who has had specialist training and accreditation," said Kennedy.

The industry was thrown into the spotlight in 2017, with the death of a 35-year-old Jean Huang during a breast augmentation procedure at a Sydney beauty salon.

Steps have been taken to regulate the industry following the incident, with new NSW legislation restricting all cosmetic surgeries to be performed at a licensed health facility.

Queensland and Victoria have followed suit in changing their legislation, and the issue has been tabled in other states.

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"The legislation means procedures can't be performed in the back of tiny shops," Kennedy said.

The belief, perpetuated by advertising, that cosmetic surgery is low risk  is harmful to patients he said.

But by procedures now having to be performed in health facilities, patients have access to trained medical staff if there is a need to intervene, which is especially important with the use of anesthesia.

"This is a step forward, but more needs to be done."

When searching for a surgeon it is important to research thoroughly, ask for a practitioners qualifications and experience, and not rely on internet reviews.