What Is Plastic Surgery (And How Is It Different From Cosmetic Surgery?)

  • cosmetic surgery

In layman’s terms, plastic surgery is the practice of reshaping, altering, or repairing parts of the body for aesthetic or reconstructive purposes.

The word “plastic” is derived from the Greek word “plastikos” which means “to mould”.

Aesthetic plastic surgery aims to change the appearance of a body part, such as the breasts or body. Its core focus is enhancing the appearance.

Reconstructive surgery aims to repair, restore, or improve function to parts of the body, such as breast reconstruction following breast cancer.

Interested in plastic surgery in Townsville, Mackay, or Cairns? We’d love to speak with you. Reach out to Cairns Plastic Surgery to organise a FREE conversation with our qualified team of nurses.

What’s the difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery?

You might think the two terms are interchangeable, and while they might seem similar, there are some very clear differences between the two – differences that you, as a prospective patient, ought to know!

To put it simply, not all surgeons are created equal.

What is cosmetic surgery?

  • In Australia, it is NOT illegal for a medical practitioner, such as a GP, to perform surgery
  • As such, anyone with a medical degree is legally allowed to call themselves “cosmetic surgeons”
  • This means that someone calling themself a cosmetic surgeon may only have a basic medical degree, and perhaps completed a short course

What is plastic surgery?

  • In stark contrast, plastic surgeons have earned a specialist degree by performing an additional 8-12 years of specialist training
  • Plastic surgeons have trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery
  • They have intricate knowledge and extensive experience across a whole range of procedures

How are cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery similar?

The terms are often used interchangeably, so one may assume they are the same. The important truth, however, is that they do differ in terms of specialist training. Note that, as mentioned above, a GP may call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, however without meeting strict training and accreditation criteria, they CANNOT call themselves a plastic surgeon.

Both cosmetic and plastic surgeons must be registered with AHPRA. However, only plastic surgeons registered with AHPRA are allowed to perform cosmetic AND reconstructive procedures.

What does it mean to be ‘board certified’?

In Australia, a board-certified plastic surgeon means they are registered with a range of associations. Dr Hertess, for example, is a proud member of the following:

  • Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS)
  • Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
  • International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons (international member)

She is also a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) (More on the impotence of FRACS below)

How to choose a plastic surgeon

Education and training

It’s critical you closely examine the credentials, memberships, and education of your plastic surgeon.

Look for a surgeon who is a member of associations including FRACS (more on the importance of FRACS below!), ASPS, and ASAPS.

Comfort and courtesy

Does your plastic surgeon (and the entire team) offer you courtesy and respect?

Our caring team acknowledges the uniqueness of every patient who walks through our doors, and our care extends beyond your procedure through post-operative appointments and a steadfast support network.

Past experience

Does your surgeon have a wealth of experience performing a range of procedures?

Additionally, do they demonstrate a wide range of technical skill to apply to a single procedure? This shows you that they have a commendable skillset to best suit each individual patient’s needs.

Post-care support

Your surgeon’s job is not done once you leave the operating theatre.

At our plastic surgery clinic in Cairns, we’re passionate about thorough post-care support. We’ll organise several post-op follow-ups to check on your recovery.

If you ever have any questions or concerns, our friendly team is always just a phone call away! You’re now an important part of the Cairns Plastic Surgery family.

Honesty and integrity

Your surgeon, whilst informing you about your chosen surgery, must demonstrate honesty, creating you a realistic expectation of the outcomes of surgery.

They must ensure you understand that results are not (and can never be) guaranteed. If they’re not being realistic, reconsider your decision.

Plastic surgery Cairns

The importance of FRACS

Five small letters. A whole lot of importance.

If you’re currently doing your research and trying to choose a plastic surgeon, it’s expected that you will have seen these letters dotted throughout surgeons’ websites.

FRACS stands for the Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, and it’s one of the most important (if not THE most important!) qualifications you should look for when choosing a surgeon.

Surgeons who complete an additional 12 years of specialist surgical training beyond their medical degree gain membership to ASAPS, or the Australiasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, need to complete only six years of training.

If you want a surgeon with more years of training, be sure to look for the letters “FRACS” after their name.

Questions to ask your plastic surgeon

So you’ve done your research, taken advantage of your FREE information session with a nurse, and now it’s time to have your consultation with our plastic surgeon.

This dialogue is two-ways – your surgeon will ask you about your chosen surgery, what you expect and hope from the surgery, your past medical conditions, and more.

But remember, this is also a time to ask questions and get all the information you require to make a truly informed and confident decision.

Not sure what kinds of questions to ask?

The following are a great starting point and may help prompt you. Don’t forget: there’s no such thing as too many questions, nor a question that is too small!

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Where did you train and when did you graduate?
  • How long have you been operating at your current clinic?
  • What associations are you a member of?
  • How experienced are you in my desired procedure?
  • Can I see some before and afters?

In terms of recovery and post-op, ask questions like:

  • What can I expect during recovery?
  • How much time do I need to take off work? (Or sport, or housework, etc.)
  • Will I get follow-up appointments?
  • How can I contact you or the clinic if something doesn’t feel right?

Ready to choose an experienced plastic surgeon in Cairns?

Choose Dr Isolde Hertess and her supportive team at Cairns Plastic Surgery!

If you are interested in plastic surgery in Mackay, Townsville, or Cairns, we invite you to book in your FREE information session with one of our nurses. This no-strings chat allows you to come in and see the clinic, meet some of the team, and confidentially discuss your needs and desires.

Organise your session now by calling Cairns Plastic Surgery on (07) 4031 5755 or filling in this contact form.