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Facial Plastic Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon: What’s the Difference?

Plastic surgery procedures are on the rise in America. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reports almost 16 million surgical and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are performed annually in the U.S., but finding the right type of plastic surgeon can be confusing.

Did you know there are different kinds of plastic surgeons performing a vast array of cosmetic and general procedures? The terms “facial plastic surgeon” and “general plastic surgeon” are often used interchangeably, but the two subspecialties are actually quite different.

 

As a facial plastic surgeon in Orlando, I’m often asked what the difference is between these subspecialities. The training for each is very different.

What Is Facial Plastic Surgery?

Facial plastic surgery forms a key element of otolaryngology, treating conditions involving the entire face, nose, neck, lips, and ears. It is generally divided into 2 main classes of procedure: reconstructive and cosmetic.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is primarily used for conditions present at birth, such as a birthmark, cleft lip, protruding ears, or a contorted smile. It is also used to treat blemishes and injuries from accidents, burns, or previous surgeries.

Cosmetic facial plastic surgery includes a variety of procedures to improve the image of one’s face and features. The most popular surgeries include rhinoplasty, scar revision, liposuction, and procedures to alleviate damaging exposure to the sun or the effects of aging.

The facial plastic surgeon is in training for 5 dedicated years, just in facial and reconstructive surgery. On the other hand, a general plastic surgeon is doing all different kinds of training over a 5-year span, including burns and working with decubitus ulcer patients in addition to reconstruction.

What Is General Plastic Surgery?

General plastic surgical procedures are typically reconstructive in nature and deal with the restoration of bodily and facial deformities resulting from birth defects, trauma, burns and disease.

General plastic surgery can include the following:

  • Breast surgery
  • Burn repair
  • Correction of congenital defects
  • Lower extremity restoration
  • Hand surgery
  • Scar correction

General plastic surgical procedures are typically reconstructive in nature and deal with the restoration of bodily and facial deformities resulting from birth defects, trauma, burns and disease.

Facial Plastic Surgery: A Specialized and Comprehensive Training

So, what’s the difference between a facial plastic surgeon and a general plastic surgeon?

Over the course of their training, facial plastic surgeons spend the entirety of their focus on the anatomy and conditions of the head and neck. They then follow that training with a year-long fellowship where they enhance their skills in their particular area of interest such as reconstructive facial surgery, rhinoplasty, or facial scarring repair.

When we’re finished with our training, a facial plastic surgeon has at least a thousand more index cases than a general plastic surgeon.

Taking that advanced training forward, once we begin our practices, we’re dedicated to the field moving year through year. So by year 5, 10, 15 or 20, a facial plastic surgeon typically has generated thousands of cases in the dedicated area of the face, where a general plastic surgeon is maybe only doing only 10% of that volume. Therefore our experience level is much greater.

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