The term “plastic surgery” originates from the Greek word “plastikos”, which means to mould or shape. The field of Plastic Surgery can be divided into two main categories: reconstructive procedures and cosmetic procedures. Both are generally considered subspecialties of plastic surgery.
Reconstructive plastic surgery
Reconstructive surgery is performed to restore normal function and appearance, and correct deformities created by birth defects, trauma or medical conditions, including cancer. Examples include cleft lip and palate repair, breast reconstruction after mastectomy for breast cancer, and reconstructive surgery after burn injuries. Reconstructive surgery is generally considered medically necessary and is covered by most health insurance plans.
Cosmetic plastic surgery
Cosmetic surgery is performed to improve overall cosmetic appearance by reshaping and adjusting normal anatomy to make it more visually appealing. Unlike reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery is not considered medically necessary. Breast augmentation, breast lift, liposuction, tummy tuck and facelift are popular examples of cosmetic surgery procedures.
Are they similar?
In reality, there is often significant overlap between reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery as they share many of the same underlying surgical principles. No matter what type of plastic surgery is performed, the ultimate goal should always include maximising the cosmetic result as much as possible. Regardless of which plastic surgery procedure is planned, it is very important that patients discuss the anticipated cosmetic outcome with their surgeon in advance to ensure that appropriate expectations are met.
The lines between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery become even more blurred when it comes to insurance coverage. Certain conditions may be considered “reconstructive” or “cosmetic” depending on the patient’s specific situation. A perfect example is rhinoplasty (nose surgery) which is often performed to improve the appearance of the nose, but may also be required to restore normal nasal breathing and normal appearance after a poor nasal fracture.