Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon – What is the difference?

Dr André Safvat - Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery - Bowral, Concord & Miranda

Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon – What is the difference?

By Emma Browne, Practice Manager – Dr Andre Safvat

Before working in the Plastic Surgery Specialty, I wasn’t really aware there was a difference between a “Plastic Surgeon” and a “Cosmetic Surgeon”. It never occurred to me that there was a difference as both perform cosmetic surgeries. How wrong I was! There is actually a huge difference between the two titles and it is vital that patients are better informed as to the correct titles, level of training and expertise in order to make informed decisions, resulting in the best possible outcome.

The most important point to take out of this, is that only doctors who have completed an additional 8-12 years of surgical training beyond their basic medical degree, including accredited specialist training, can lawfully use the title of “Plastic Surgeon”.

Currently in Australia anyone with a basic medical degree or a GP, can perform invasive cosmetic surgery without undergoing specialist training and assessment accredited by The Australian Medical Council (AMC). Government bodies are working to amend this loophole, however at this point in time it has not happened.

This can be confusing to patients who might assume anyone performing cosmetic surgery has same level of training and qualifications. In fact, the title of “Cosmetic Surgeon” has not been recognised or approved by APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency).

The many differences between Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgeons, are as follows:

  • A Specialist Plastic Surgeon can use the initials of FRACS (Plas) in their title. FRACS stands for Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. This means that the Surgeon is accredited through Australian Medical Council (AMC) to perform invasive reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery.
  • A Specialist Plastic Surgeon has done between 8- 12 additional years of surgical training and vigorous assessments, including at least 5 years of specialist postgraduate training.
  • Memberships to peak bodies for Plastic Surgery with ASPS (Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons) and ASAPS (Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) are only available to Specialist Plastic Surgeons.
  • Specialist Plastic Surgeons operate in fully accredited Public &/or Private Hospitals with the highest standards, regularly audited by Health Departments. They also only use experienced and accredited anaesthetists.

Patients can check their surgeon’s qualifications via AHPRA and ASPS website. Please ensure you do your research when choosing your surgeon to make sure the surgeon is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with the FRACS (Plast) title.

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