Chicago Plastic Surgeons vs. Chicago Cosmetic Surgeons: What's the Difference?
If you’ve been searching for “plastic surgery Chicago” for any length of time, you’ve probably seen the terms plastic surgeon and cosmetic surgeon everywhere you’ve looked. If you’re like most people, you probably thought they were interchangeable words for the same type of surgeon.
It’s true that the terms are used interchangeably, especially by Chicago plastic surgeons who choose to focus their practices on cosmetic surgery.
Due to falling reimbursements, there are also many doctors and non-surgeons in unrelated fields claiming to be cosmetic surgeons.
This can be misleading and has led to some confusion in public perception. Even doctors in other medical fields can’t distinguish the difference. This is due to the fact that there are many conflicting descriptions in the media and by surgeons themselves with respect to the two.
Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery both deal with surgical alteration of the human body. The fields are therefore closely related, but not the same
1. Chicago Cosmetic Surgery & Chicago Plastic Surgery Differ in Their Objectives.
While both cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery deal with alteration to the human body, the ultimate goals may differ and thus the guiding principles with regard to training, research, and emphasis of procedures may differ.
Chicago Cosmetic Surgery: Focused on Enhancing Appearance Aesthetically
The procedures, techniques, and principles of cosmetic surgery are entirely focused on enhancing a patient’s appearance. Improving aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion are the key goals.
Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck, and body. Because the treated areas function properly, cosmetic surgery is elective. Cosmetic surgery is practiced by doctors from a variety of medical fields, including some plastic surgeons.
Examples of cosmetic surgery procedures include:
- Breast Augmentation
- Tummy Tuck
- Fat Transfers
Chicago Plastic Surgery on the other hand is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is reconstructive in nature as it is primarily concerned with restoring function, while maximizing form is of secondary concern.
Although many of the surgical principles in regard to maximizing aesthetic appearance of the final result are the same, plastic surgery’s primary objective is to restore the underlying function of the body part whether it be mobility, bodily function, or protective tissue coverage.
In 1999, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons changed its name to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to more strongly communicate the message that “plastic and reconstructive surgeons are one and the same.”¹
Some examples of plastic surgery procedures:
- Breast reconstruction after mastectomy
- cleft-lip repair
- hand surgery and finger re-plantations
- scar revisions
- scar and skin graft surgery for burns
- skin flaps for tissue defects.
2. Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery Differ in Their Training.
The training required to become a board-certified plastic surgeon in Chicago is distinctly different than the training to become a board-certified cosmetic surgeon in Chicago. Since the scope and type of procedures performed by each are different, it’s logical that each specialty undergoes a different training and certification.
Plastic surgery training is completed through a post-graduate or combined residency program
To make things even more confusing, there are two tracks to becoming a plastic surgeon. Some complete an entire 5 years of general or otolaryngology surgery training plus an additional 2-3 years of post-graduate training in plastic surgery.
Another path to plastic surgery is a “combined” program in which surgeons complete 3 years of general surgery training followed by 3 years of plastic surgery training.
The commonality between the two is that a large portion of the training is dedicated to general surgery or otolaryngology (3-5 years) followed by a period (2-3 years) in which a plastic surgeon must master all aspects of reconstructive surgery including craniofacial surgery, hand surgery, burn surgery, microsurgery, and some cosmetic surgery.
In total, only a very small portion of a plastic surgeon’s training (a few months over 6-7 years) is dedicated to training in cosmetic surgery and not all cosmetic surgical procedures are taught.
It is for this reason that many plastic surgeons choose to undergo additional fellowships or apprenticeships in cosmetic surgery in order to be comfortable and proficient at specific cosmetic procedures.
Therefore the title “board-certified plastic surgeon” indicates a certain level of training and experience with respect to plastic surgery and the vast scope of procedures that are required in their training.
Because the scope of training is so broad, the actual number of cosmetic surgical procedures required to graduate from a plastic surgery program may actually be very few (see chart above).
Furthermore, this certification does not require experience or exposure to many common cosmetic procedures.² Certification only denotes that the surgeon has been exposed to at least the minimum number of qualifying cases in the field, and in regard to cosmetic surgery cases, that minimum number varies greatly between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery.
Currently, there are no ABMS residency programs in the United States devoted exclusively to cosmetic surgery. Because of this, cosmetic surgeons primarily obtain training and experience after completing their residency training. This is done by completing a post-residency fellowship.
Board-certified cosmetic surgeons are residency-trained and certified in a primary surgical specialty and then fellowship-trained specifically for cosmetic surgery.
When it pertains to cosmetic surgery, the training, experience, and knowledge required to become a board-certified cosmetic surgeon reflects specialization in cosmetic surgical procedures above and beyond what is required in plastic surgery.
Each surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery has completed a one- or two-year fellowship training dedicated to cosmetic surgery alone. During this fellowship, surgeons receive thorough training in all cosmetic surgery procedures of the face, breast, and body, plus non-surgical cosmetic treatments, performing a minimum of 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures.
This fellowship training is in addition to completing a 5-6 year residency program in a related discipline like general surgery, otolaryngology, oral-maxillofacial surgery, or plastic surgery.
Board-certified plastic surgeons may be very skilled and qualified to perform cosmetic surgery and may be the most experienced in those procedures in your area. However, it is important to understand that this is not always the case.
If you look at requirements and training to perform a cosmetic procedure, plastic surgery certification doesn’t always equate to more proficiency compared to a dedicated board-certified cosmetic surgeon. That is why some board-certified plastic surgeons seek to also become board-certified cosmetic surgeons.
Because any licensed physician can legally perform cosmetic surgery, regardless of how they received cosmetic surgery training, it is extremely important to do your research when choosing a cosmetic surgeon.
In the end, the title doesn’t matter if the surgeon can’t perform a procedure safely and proficiently and this goes back to adequate training. To find the best plastic surgeon in Chicago for a specific cosmetic procedure, you must compare doctors’ overall (residency and post-residency) training, experience, and proven competence with respect to that specific cosmetic procedure that you want to get.
A plastic surgeon may not always be the most well-trained surgeon when it comes to a given cosmetic procedure, just as a cosmetic surgeon may not be the best surgeon to perform a reconstructive procedure.
Also remember that many doctors claiming to be cosmetic surgeons aren’t certified surgeons at all. This is why doing your research and asking the right questions are paramount.
²Morrison, M.Sc., Colin, A Survey of Cosmetic Surgery Training in Plastic Surgery Programs in the United States, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, pp.1570-1578, 2008.
Verified Patient Reviews
I recently had a tummy tuck procedure which was performed by Dr. T only about 3 weeks ago. I feel & look great! I can’t express how ecstatic I truly am! I’m in my 30’s with no kids, struggling with weight since I was a teenager. My weight fluctuating over the years caused me to have a pouch (very unattractive). I’m still on the plus size but a hanging belly made me look even heavier and impacted my self-esteem. Before I went to Dr. T for a consult. I reached out to several of the popular Instagram doctors aboard. I watched countless videos of other girls who shared their experiences having surgeries in other countries. I received several cheap quotes compared to the prices in Chicago and other U.S cities. But I just couldn’t risk traveling aboard and jeopardizing my health to save money. I’m writing a long review because prior to my surgery and even before my consultation. I searched endlessly, for honest reviews from other patients who had gotten a tummy tuck and were in the same predicament as myself. It’s only been 3 weeks but my body has transformed and my self-confidence has increased. I’m looking forward to the final results which do take several months.
The recovery has been really easy! Please don’t be disheartened by the scary and painful experiences shared on social media and YouTube. I understand everyone’s body is not the same and each of us will have a different experience with our recovery. With that being sad, having an experienced, board certified, and a gifted plastic surgeon makes all the difference. Honestly, hardest part of the recovery was not being able to drive for the first 2 weeks. Driving restrictions will be given by all plastic surgeons who perform tummy tucks. I was hesitant because it was my surgery and also because of the cost, but Dr. T’s prices are fair, affordable and competitive in the Chicago market. I was not pressured into getting the surgery, my questions were thoroughly answered with kindness and patience by Dr. T, and his wonderful assistant Monika. I asked countless redundant questions and spent a great deal of time with both of them before finalizing my decision. The entire staff is so professional, nonjudgmental, genuinely kind and caring.
Final thoughts, it might be cheaper to travel aboard but it’s not worth the risk. I made decision to undergo my surgery ever with Dr. T, not only because of his merits, academic accomplishments and amazing procedure results and also his swag, but because of his of aura. It’s hard to explain but you will sense it when you meet him, he’s honest, patient, kind and most importantly he’s ethical. He doesn’t recommend unnecessary procedures or enforces changes he wants to see on you. He will help and guide you in achieving the body you have envisioned for yourself. My only regret is not getting a tummy tuck sooner with him. It’s embarrassing but I’m sharing my pictures because I had desperately searched for body types like my own, who had gotten the procedure and wanted to see their results. I hope my very long review helps anyone considering tummy tuck. If you’re in Chicago meet Dr. T if you’re interested in the tummy tuck, it’ll be totally worth it! Always read others review on Realself, never thought I’d be writing one too! 🙂
I did a LOT of research to find the perfect surgeon who could deliver natural, yet superior results. I wanted a BBL that didn’t look like I had an obvious surgery done, but that would improve my figure and give me that beautiful hourglass shape along with lifting and filling out my sagging behind. I knew from my first consultation with Dr.Truong & by the looks of his portfolio, that he would be the one to do my surgery! I brought along photos of what I personally wanted to achieve and he told me exactly what he would need to do to achieve those results. I gladly traveled from out of state to have my BBL surgery by Dr. Truong and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!! Everyone at his office and the morning of my surgery were so nice and accommodating. I can not recommend him enough and I think my before and after photos speak volumes! He clearly is highly skilled in lipo sculpting and fat transfer! If you have been thinking about this procedure and are on the fence, you just need to do it! You will be in great hands with Dr. Truong & his staff. Your confidence will undoubtably be boosted after this procedure; Mine sure was, and I’m absolutely thrilled with my results!
Dr. Truong is amazing!! I researched doctors online and chose to have a consultation with him. Just by looking at my body he was able to point out exactly what I was going to tell him that I wanted. His experience with liposuction and bbl surgery really showed up during the consultation. He is very professional and gives off a reassuring energy. So, I didn’t feel self-conscious about sharing my concerns with him. Everyone at the office is extremely supportive and helpful. When I went in to have my surgery, he thoroughly went over details of the body shape I wanted. I was so excited!!! I can’t wait to go back to my one month post op appoinment. I still have some swelling yet this is the smallest waistline I have ever had in my life. Dr. Truong makes the unimaginable possible. Thank you times a million!! I can’t wait for summer to show off my new body. Dr. Truong is a body contouring artist!!!