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What is the difference between a Cosmetic and Plastic surgeon?

Although Shrinc do not perform any invasive techniques requiring the expertise of a surgeon, we often have clients asking about surgical techniques as they explore their various options. For some conditions, there is no suitable non-invasive alternative.

Despite the popularity of cosmetic procedures and increasing competitiveness of the industry, in Australia there is no regulatory body for cosmetic surgery. Instead, there are a range of medical colleges and associations all claiming to offer training and qualifications for doctors providing a range of cosmetic procedures.

Unfortunately, due to the cosmetic surgery industry being largely unregulated, some surgeons seem to be getting away all too easily with some alarmingly unprofessional conduct (we have heard it all!). Infact, many of the doctors you see on TV news or reality programs are some of the worst offenders...

Who should I choose?

While most practitioners regularly describe themselves as either plastic surgeons or cosmetic surgeons, in some cases the difference can be up to eight years of additional training for plastic surgeons.

Currently, any medical doctor, whether they be a general practitioner or specialist (eg. a dermatologist) can perform cosmetic surgery and call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS) was set up in 1999 to fill the gap in differences in quality of cosmetic surgeons, and has an accrediting medical faculty, although it is not recognised specialist training.

Plastic surgeons, on the other hand, undertake a minimum of seven years of additional training once they have obtained their medical degree and most likely become members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), which provides specific guidelines to which practitioners must adhere. Plastic surgeons are also Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), which awards them the status of specialist. Plastic surgery is recognised as a specialty and plastic surgeons perform both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.

Make an informed choice

The ASPS claims many doctors without specialist training are doing complex cosmetic surgery procedures and advertising themselves as leaders in their field. ASPS President Dr Howard Webster says there is nothing illegal about a GP undertaking surgical work so long as they disclose that information to the patient, but stresses the benefits of specialist training. ”If you train in a certain area then you should probably work in that area. You would probably use an orthopaedic surgeon to do hip surgery on you instead of a GP.”

Before you decide on an invasive procedure, ask your doctor about the following:

Considering how easily a doctor can open and operate a cosmetic surgery without specialist training, if you choose to go to a cosmetic surgeon, you need to be clear that you may not be seeing a specialist in the field. At the very least, make sure he or she is a member of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery.

Excerpts from "Cosmetic surgery not all pretty - CHOICE investigates the cosmetic surgery industry and uncovers some disturbingly unprofessional practices".

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