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What is the Difference Between Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery?


A Little History

Plastic Surgery Came First

The term plastic surgery was first used in 1842. Plastic surgery was used to treat people who had been disfigured in some way by bringing them back into the range of good health, normal appearance and optimal functioning. Reconstructive techniques like re-attaching limbs, skin grafting and facial reconstruction were developed during World War I and improved the health and quality of life of many soldiers. Over time, techniques were developed that could alter almost any physical feature. These techniques began to be applied to patients who wanted to improve their appearance by shaping the body to reflect a certain beauty ideal. In other words, the treatments began to be applied cosmetically.

Cosmetic  Surgery is All About Looking Your Best

Fast forward to the present, and more and more people are undergoing surgical procedures in order to improve their personal appearance. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the top five cosmetic surgical procedures in 2011 were:

  • breast augmentation
  • nose reshaping
  • liposuction
  • eyelid surgery
  • facelift

Both plastic and cosmetic surgical procedures require proper post operative care to promote the healing process, prevent infection and reduce the risk of other complications. Compression garments are often a very important part of the healing process, and must be worn for several days to several weeks following surgery.

In summary, the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery is the reason the patient is undergoing the surgery. Facial reconstruction due to a car accident would be considered plastic surgery since the patient is injured and disfigured and requires the surgery to retain optimal functioning. However when a facelift or botox injection is administered to a patient who desires a more youthful appearance, the procedure is considered cosmetic.


The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons: http://www.plasticsurgery.ca/
American Society of Plastic Surgeons: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/