Know how your prospective surgeon was trained.  There are significant differences between physicians who are trained as Plastic Surgeons, and those who promote themselves as Cosmetic Surgeons.  The lay public must be able to distinguish the basic characteristics of each before committing to any procedure in these fields.  Both can provide aesthetic or cosmetic services and procedures.  How do they differ?

Plastic Surgery is the art of innovation to restore form and function.  The term “plastic” likely comes from the Greek “plastikos” pertaining “to form”.  The earliest plastic surgery procedures can be traced back to ancient India, around 700BC, where flaps of forehead tissue were used to reconstruct noses that were amputated as punishment for adultery and prostitution.  During World War I, Sir Harold Gillies of New Zealand, working in Great Britain, became known as the father of modern plastic and reconstructive surgery. He used skin grafts to heal burns from aviators who survived downed airplanes from dogfights and pioneered facial reconstruction for soldiers who were shot in battle.  He also developed early techniques for sex reassignment surgery.  The plastic surgeon’s craft is known for innovating solutions to problems of the day that challenged other surgical specialists.  Dr. Joseph Murray, an American plastic surgeon, won the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his pioneering work in kidney transplantation.  Today, plastic surgeons innovate reconstructive procedures to close complex wounds left by cancer, reattach limbs, separate conjoined twins, and transplant faces, just to name a few.  They are involved in exciting stem cell research and restoring scarred tissue characteristics after radiation injury with fat grafts in addition to reconstruction of wounds left by cancer and burns.

Cosmetic or aesthetic (appearance based) procedures evolved as a spinoff of this innovative process for changing facial appearance and body image.   These minor skin procedures have been effective in resolving the stress and conflict those who suffer when unable to age gracefully, or who are dissatisfied with their appearance.  As many aesthetic procedures do not enter body cavities, and are classified as “minor surgery”, any MD is legally licensed to perform cosmetic surgery procedures regardless of their training.  Unfortunately, some are promoting themselves after attending weekend seminars or with little exposure to the complications or challenges that may occur.  To list a few, these include wound infections, excessive bleeding, scarring, poor or impaired healing, and even potential problems of systemic infections, heart irregularities, or embolic lung problems that risk sudden death.  

So how is the public to know who is trained to handle these potential problems?

Board certification is important to determine a baseline standard of training.  The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) oversees the 24 major divisions of specialty training, of which the American Board of Plastic Surgery was established in 1941.  Unless specified, a generic claim to be “Board Certified” may reference any of the other 150 specialties and subspecialists certified who are not trained in Plastic Surgery.  It is important for prospective patients to research the training and background of their surgeons.  Interesting fact: there is no specialty Board for Cosmetic surgery under the ABMS.  If you search for the “American Board of Cosmetic Surgery”, Wikipedia shows that it does not exist. . . . . . Buyer beware!

Contact board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Wong and his staff for a consultation. Please also follow Honolulu Plastic Surgery on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.