What’s the Difference Between Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery?

While most people assume that the terms plastic and cosmetic surgery denote the same set of procedures, the truth is the two terms are actually not synonymous. Though most people use them interchangeably, plastic surgery is an umbrella term that encompasses both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.

The term “plastic surgery” is derived from the Greek plastikos which means “able to be molded.” Nowadays it’s the branch of surgery that repairs, remodels, and/or restores parts of the body. This includes surgery to change parts of the body to achieve cosmetic goals as well as surgery to restore function to body parts.

Surgery that is used to help a person achieve his or her desired look is called cosmetic surgery. Procedures that enhance certain body parts fall into this category. A facelift is an example of a cosmetic surgery procedure because it helps to give the patient a younger-looking appearance but does not work to repair any problems a patient may have with the function of any facial features. Dr. Burstein’s February 2010 Spotlight Patient, Sandy, underwent a facelift to freshen her look and reach her cosmetic goals.

Reconstructive surgery also falls under the plastic surgery umbrella. Because Dr. Burstein specializes in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology, he performs many reconstructive surgeries on patients who may suffer from congenital disorders or who have experienced an accident or trauma that may have caused an issue with breathing, eating, speaking, etc. Jordan, our October Spotlight Patient, was born with a cleft lip and palate which Dr. Burstein has worked, through multiple reconstructive surgeries, to repair so that Jordan can speak and eat normally.

Some plastic surgery procedures work both as cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. For example, our November Spotlight Patient, Christopher, suffered from a deviated septum which caused him trouble breathing. Rhinoplasty, or nose surgery, helped him regain the function of his nose so he was able to breathe again and also worked to balance his facial profile for a more aesthetically pleasing look.

Although most surgeons will know what you’re talking about when you say plastic surgery and explain what your goals for surgery are, it’s still an important distinction for patients and potential patients when you’re researching your prospective procedure(s) and surgeon, regardless of what surgery you are interested in undergoing.

For more information on the cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries that Atlanta facial plastic surgeon Dr. Fernando Burstein performs, contact our office. You can also keep up with the latest in plastic surgery news and updates by following us on Twitter and Facebook!