Board Certification in Plastic Surgery

Board Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

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The American Board of Plastic Surgery is one of the twenty-four Member Boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The American Board of Plastic Surgery issues certificates in Plastic Surgery and subspecialty certificates in Hand Surgery. The term "board certified" can refer to any certificates from any of the member boards, from Allergy & Immunology to Urology, so it is important that you specify "board certified in plastic surgery". Because this site deals with plastic surgery, we use the terms "board certified" and "board certified in plastic surgery" interchangeably. It is important, however, to know that there is a difference when you are checking into a physician's qualifications.

What does "Board Certified in Plastic Surgery" mean?

To be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a doctor must graduate from an accredited medical school, do internship and residency training in either general surgery or otolaryngology, complete an approved residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery, practice a minimum of two years after graduation, and pass extensive written and oral exams. These include a review of all cases done by the surgeon in the preceding year. The process take approximately seven and one half years after graduation from medical school.

The reason for this extensive training is that the plastic surgeon is one of the few medical specialists who is truly called upon to help with every part of the body. From brain surgery, to cleft lip in infants, ear, throat, breast, malformed genitals, injured hands, legs and feet, there is really no body part that plastic surgeons aren't called upon to fix when other surgeons run up against difficult situations. While many people feel that plastic surgeons spend all of their time doing Rhinoplasties and Liposuction, that is far from the case.

If your doctor is not board certified in plastic surgery, find out why. If they have moved from another state, this should not affect their status with the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which is national. Keep in mind that a state's licensing authority and certification by a specialty board such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery are two different issues. Since the licensing board in your state is not necessarily run by plastic surgeons, don't let the fact that they are licensed be your only guide.

Does the fact that a doctor is board certified in plastic surgery mean that he or she is right for me?

Not necessarily. Certification, licensing, referrals and experience are just some of the factors you should consider. For example: in order to be board certified in plastic surgery, a surgeon must be experienced in all of the areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Some Plastic Surgeons focus their practices on Cosmetic Surgery and others on Reconstructive Surgery. It is important to ask about the type of cases on which a doctor focuses. Ideally, you want someone who has experience and a proven track record with the type of procedure you're seeking.

What is the difference between Plastic Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery?

Plastic surgery encompasses both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. One important item to note: In most states, only physicians who hold a certificate in Plastic Surgery can call themselves "Plastic Surgeons". The rule doesn't always apply to the term "Cosmetic Surgeon," so it is not unusual to see dermatologists, dentists or other doctors presenting themselves as cosmetic surgeons. While the mere term "Cosmetic Surgeon" should not be considered a red flag, you should always verify that you are getting what you think you are getting. If you want a surgeon who is board certified in plastic surgery, make sure you verify that fact. (It's easier than you'd think. Just keep reading...)

Cosmetic Procedures: Some cosmetic procedures are: Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck), Blepharoplasty - Eyelid Surgery, Breast Enlargement (Augmentation Mammaplasty), Breast Lift, Chemical Peel, Dermabrasion, Facelift, Forehead Lift, Hair Replacement, Liposuction, Nose Surgery - Rhinoplasty, Otoplasty - Surgery of the Ear and Spider Vein treatment.

Reconstructive Procedures: Some examples of reconstructive procedures include: Breast Reconstruction, Breast Reduction (Reduction Mammaplasty), Cleft Lip and Palate, Gynecomastia (Male Breast Reduction), Hand Surgery, Scar Revision, Skin Cancer Surgery and Tissue Expansion.

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