When a patient begins a search to find a plastic surgeon, one of the most common things he or she is not aware of is that there is a difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon. Cosmetic surgery is performed by many physicians, and unfortunately, some are not under the guidance of a properly credentialed board. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only board acknowledged and approved by the National Board of Medical Specialties. That means members certified by that board are held to the highest standards as it pertains to skills, knowledge, judgment, safety and ethics in that particular specialty. Over the years, board certified plastic surgeons, and members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, have been dedicated to continuously improving plastic surgery techniques through intense research and clinical trials driven towards patient safety and outcomes.
Those who call themselves cosmetic surgeons typically belong to another board and can actually be a specialist in any number of other medical areas which are not certified or acknowledged to perform cosmetic procedures to these high standards. We've even seen disturbing examples of people with no medical training calling themselves cosmetic surgeons. Many doctors with surgical residencies are also performing whole body cosmetic procedures learned through non-accredited training.
Why are these standards so important? Understanding the full extent of reconstruction is a must when it comes to cosmetic procedures. For example, it may be easy for a non-board certified surgeon to learn to place a breast implant, but if things did not go to plan and a complication arose, a surgeon who is an expert at reconstructing a breast will be much more competent at handling any potential problem.
The good news is that most hospitals will only allow plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to perform cosmetic procedures at their facilities. Their credentialing process is very thorough and it typically takes months to complete. A surgeon is granted privileges to perform plastic surgery only after proof of competency, training in an accredited residency and the proper board certification.
No surgeon should perform a cosmetic procedure on you if they don't have privileges to perform that same procedure at a reputable hospital. Some plastic surgeons have their own facilities which are independently certified. The distinction is that they have hospital privileges as well, should the need arise to admit a patient for hospitalization that warrants further care.
So before you go in for plastic surgery, make sure you're seeing a board-certified plastic surgeon. Anyone can wear a white coat and call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, but not everyone has the training and expertise to give you the safest possible experience.