What is Cosmetic Surgery?


Cosmetic Surgery is an advanced specialty distinct from general plastic surgery that requires specific skill sets. There are no dysfunctions in the areas of the body in cosmetic surgery – these are elective procedures to enhance a person’s appearance toward an aesthetic ideal.

Cosmetic surgery and general plastic surgery are NOT the same. General plastic surgery is a surgical specialty dedicated to the reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders (such as cleft palates), trauma, burns, and disease (such as breast cancer). General plastic surgery training focuses on the correction of dysfunctional areas of the face and body and is reconstructive in nature. Many of the techniques used in reconstructive plastic surgery are the same techniques used in cosmetic surgery. The difference is Cosmetic surgery has evolved into a unique, specialized surgical discipline. Moreover, general plastic surgeons are exposed to very little cosmetic surgery as part of their residency training (see figure).

Cosmetic surgery focuses solely on the enhancement of a patient’s physical appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgeons focus on maintaining or restoring normal appearance, and on enhancing one’s physical appearance to an aesthetic ideal. Cosmetic Surgery is a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive approach that encompasses all areas of the head, neck, and body. It fully incorporates the participation and knowledge from all contributing disciplines to attain a high level of skill and understanding. Contributing disciplines include dermatology, general surgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, gynecological surgery, and oral-maxillofacial surgery.

The cosmetic surgery fellowship is also highly unique. First, the surgeon applying for the fellowship must be a fully trained and board-certified surgeon (plastic surgeon, general surgeon, ENT surgeon, or cardiac surgeon.) This surgeon must then dedicate a full year in an advanced cosmetic surgery fellowship to master the skills of a cosmetic surgeon. In addition to advanced surgical skills, cosmetic surgeons develop a keen artistic approach to advance their patient’s needs. Also, special skills and knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and basic sciences are essential in cosmetic surgery.The need for advanced fellowship training has never been more important than in this modern era of imposed work hour restrictions for surgical trainees in residency training programs.

ABCS-logoThe American Board of Cosmetic Surgery exists to ensure competency in cosmetic surgery and is the only surgical board dedicated exclusively to excellence in cosmetic surgery. Candidates applying to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery must, first, be board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialty (ABMS). Members of the ABMS are board certified surgeons such as ENT, general plastic surgeons, general surgeons, or cardiothoracic surgeons. Then, after completing a yearlong cosmetic surgery fellowship, surgeons are eligible for board certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. The qualifications to apply to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery ensures that a board certified cosmetic surgeon possesses the required knowledge, surgical judgment, technical mastery, ethics, and artistic skill to achieve the goal of providing not only safe but outstanding cosmetic surgery for patients.