Surgical Instruments

When you’re considering plastic surgery of any kind, it helps to know the difference between cosmetic vs. reconstructive surgery. Although the surgical procedures involved in both are similar enough, the purposes behind the two are significantly different. Check out our quick breakdown and feel confident understanding the difference between these two types of plastic surgery.

How is cosmetic surgery different from reconstructive surgery?

Fun fact: the phrase plastic surgery derives from the Greek word “plastikos,” meaning to shape or mold. The reasons why someone might want something shaped or molded on their body are key to understanding cosmetic vs. reconstructive surgery.

Cosmetic surgery typically refers to any procedure performed in order to enhance the aesthetics of the body. Popular and common cosmetic surgeries include:

  • Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
  • Breast augmentation (lift, reduction, implants)
  • Liposuction
  • Face lifts

The goal of these surgeries is to address any aesthetic concerns the patient has and improve the appearance of that particular area of the body.

Similarly, reconstructive surgery is also intended to improve the physical appearance of the body; however, in these cases, the reason often concerns illness, injury or birth defect. For example, a baby born with a cleft palate will undergo reconstructive surgery. A breast cancer survivor might have reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy (removal of the breast or breast tissue). Burn victims are also candidates for reconstructive surgery. 

Unlike cosmetic surgery, there is typically a medical imperative for reconstructive surgery and for this reason insurances usually cover reconstructive procedures, while the costs of cosmetic surgeries are out of pocket.

Before you schedule either type of surgery, ensure that your provider is board-certified for whichever specialty you need. 

A member of the New England Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, Dr. Sterling is board certified for both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. Contact our office when you’re ready to schedule a consultation — we now offer Telehealth services

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