Plastic surgery is a branch of medicine that involves modifying or restoring the look and function of a particular part of the body. While many people use the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Cosmetic surgery, reconstructive surgery, and bariatric surgery are all branches of plastic surgery. While plastic surgery is concerned with both the look and function of the treatment area, cosmetic surgery is primarily concerned with aesthetics.
Cosmetic plastic surgery. This aesthetic branch of plastic surgery includes procedures meant to modify a person’s appearance. Cosmetic surgery can be more accurately referred to as “cosmetic plastic surgery.” People may undergo cosmetic surgery to improve their appearance, restore appearance, or modify appearances. Breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, face lift, and the tummy tuck are among the most common surgical procedures performed by cosmetic plastic surgeons.
Non-cosmetic plastic surgery. Plastic surgery procedures are wide-ranging, but a majority of the plastic surgery procedures that are not cosmetic fall into the category of reconstructive plastic surgery instead. Plastic surgery includes specialties such a burn rehabilitation, craniofacial reconstruction, hand surgery, and microsurgery, which is concerned with skin grafting and tissue transfer.
Many, if not most, plastic surgery procedures involve cosmetic reconstruction in some form, so most procedures integrate the medical aesthetic branch of plastic surgery. With eyelid surgery, for example, the procedure is considered cosmetic but is actually more often performed to remove excess skin surrounding the eyes of elderly patients who are experiencing a vision obstruction, not to improve appearances.
Reconstructive plastic surgery. This branch of plastic surgery restores form and function to the treatment area, usually after accident, injury, disease, disfigurement, or to correct a birth defect. Burn treatment, craniofacial reconstruction, and breast reconstruction after mastectomy are all common procedures performed by reconstructive plastic surgeons.
Bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is a plastic surgery specialty that is not considered cosmetic or reconstructive. While bariatric surgery may drastically change a person’s appearance, this result of the surgery occurs over time, and the main reason for a doctor to recommend a bariatric procedure is for the sake of the patient’s health and physical well-being. Bariatric procedures are usually only recommended for obese patients who’ve been previously unsuccessful with other weight loss methods and treatments.
Non-invasive and minimally-invasive treatments. Plastic and cosmetic surgeons usually offer a range of non-surgical alternatives to patients, varying from less invasive than surgery to completely non-invasive. These treatments usually fall under the branch of cosmetic surgery and aesthetic enhancement. Examples include microdermabrasion, laser skin resurfacing, chemical peels, and Botox and other dermal injectables.