What Is the Difference Between Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery?

What is the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery?

There are several differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery.
There are several differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery.

The terms plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are often used interchangeably. Although both disciplines of medical science aim at improving a person’s body, they are different from each other in many aspects. Even the cosmetic and plastic surgeons may have different qualifications and expertise. The differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery are as follows

1. Definition

  • Plastic surgery: This is the surgical specialty that deals with the reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, injuries, burns and diseases. It is reconstructive, which means it is focused on correcting the dysfunctional areas of the body. It is also called reconstructive surgery.
  • Cosmetic surgery: This is the branch of medicine dedicated toward the enhancement of appearance through various surgical and medical techniques. It can be performed anywhere on the body including the face, neck, chest and abdomen. The area to be treated is not dysfunctional, but may need to be aesthetically enhanced according to the patient. It is also called aesthetic surgery.

2. Whether elective or emergency procedure

  • Plastic surgery: This may be done as an elective or emergency surgery. Emergency means there is an urgent threat to the person’s life, organ, limb or any other part of the body. For example, plastic surgery may be done for scalp lacerations (deep scalp wounds), nasal injuries, lacerations on the face, etc.
  • Cosmetic surgery: Cosmetic surgery is always an elective procedure because the area to be treated is not dysfunctional, but may need to be aesthetically enhanced according to the patient.

3. Why is it done (indications)

  • Plastic surgery: This is performed to repair defects or damage on the face or body and to reconstruct the dysfunctional or nonfunctional areas. Plastic surgery may be done for
    • Repair of the hand
    • Burn repair
    • Cleft lip or palate repair
    • Mastectomy (breast removal surgery) scar repair
    • Breast reduction for chronic neck and back pain
    • Scar revision surgery (done to minimize a scar so that it is less visible and blends well with the surrounding skin tone and texture)
    • Reconstruction of the lower limbs (legs, thighs, feet or toes)
    • Trauma surgery
  • Cosmetic surgery: This is done to improve the appearance or aesthetic appeal of a part of the body. The part concerned is functionally normal. Some examples of cosmetic surgery are as follows

4. Whether insurance is applicable

  • Plastic surgery: Because plastic surgery is medically necessary to restore function of a damaged or defective part of the body, it may be covered by medical insurance. The patient should ask their insurance provider for details.
  • Cosmetic surgery: Because cosmetic surgery deals with aesthetic enhancement in the absence of medical indications, it may not be covered by medical insurance. The patient should contact their  insurance provider for details.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/7/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

American Board of Cosmetic Surgery


California Academy of Cosmetic Sugery


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