There is a great deal of confusion regarding the difference between ‘Plastic Surgeons’ who perform cosmetic surgery – and Doctors who are referred to as ‘Cosmetic Surgeons’, who also perform cosmetic surgery. Many of our clients did not know there was a difference.
This explanation aims to clarify the differences and allow you to make an educated and more informed decision.
What is the difference between a ‘Plastic Surgeon’ and ‘Cosmetic Doctor’?
In Australia Specialist Plastic Surgeons have studied surgery for a minimum of five years and have at least 13-14 years of total medical and surgical education. Plastic Surgeons are Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) and have undergone extensive training to perform invasive surgical procedures. Doctors with a basic medical degree (MBBS-Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) are not actually surgeons as they are not trained for invasive surgical procedures. They may have no actual experience operating on people before they start performing procedures. However, in Australia it is not illegal for a medical practitioner (e.g. GP) to perform surgery. Doctors with minimal or even no surgical training are able to promote themselves as “Cosmetic Surgeons”.
A Doctor performing ‘Cosmetic Surgery’ or a ‘cosmetic Surgeon’ can simply complete a medical degree, followed by 1 year as a medical Intern and then 1 or 2 years as a ‘Resident’ Medical Officer in a Hospital. During this time, they may never operate on anyone as there is no requirement to do so at the end of their residency. It is possible they may not have even been in an operating theatre to learn how to perform surgery in a sterile manner. They can then undergo a weekend workshop with a breast implant distributor – and start to perform Breast Augmentation surgery on patients. These doctors usually refer to themselves as ‘Dr (Name)’ operating from a Cosmetic Surgery Clinic or some other brand name. They are not permitted to operate in major hospitals They are not allowed legally to call themselves Surgeons as they are not trained as Surgeons.
Some Cosmetic surgeons do have training in surgery and may even be fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). Their training however may be in specialties such as Ear, nose and throat surgery or General surgery. These doctors usually call themselves “Facial Plastic Surgeons”, “Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons”, “Oncoplastic Surgeons” or even “Specialist Cosmetic Surgeons”. It appears that some of these doctors are trying to convince patients that they are trained in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery when in fact this is not the case. Some may never have had any training in cosmetic surgery outside of their area of primary training such as the Ear, nose or throat! Only surgeons with fellowship training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery are able to call themselves “Specialist Plastic Surgeons”. Only Specialist Plastic Surgeons receive fellowship training in which they are taught and examined on all aspects of Cosmetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. They are usually members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Low cost surgery
Some patients considering breast augmentation are attracted to lower cost surgery which is performed by doctors without formal surgical qualifications and training.
In some cases, they are performing the surgery outside of accredited hospitals and under twilight sedation as this significantly reduces the costs of surgery in Australia making it as attractive as surgery performed under a General Anaesthetic in hospitals overseas.
Surgery performed by a qualified surgeon under a General Anaesthetic administered by a qualified Anaesthetist in an accredited hospital is associated with fewer significant complications than the same surgery performed in any other manner.
It is legal for any doctor with a basic medical degree (MBBS) to perform surgery and call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon. However, Specialist Plastic Surgeons have a minimum of 13 years of medical and surgical education and training. This includes at least 5 years of specialist training. Breast Augmentation is intensive surgery so make sure you do your research prior to selecting a surgeon.
Before booking a consultation make sure you ask about the qualifications and credentials of your potential plastic surgeon. You can check the AHPRA website to see if your surgeon is registered as a Specialist Plastic Surgeon.
Dr Mark Hanikeri is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon in Subiaco, Western Australia. The “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” title can only be used by surgeons in the recognised Specialty of Plastic Surgery. Mark has had 15 years’ experience as a specialist in cosmetic surgery of the body, breast and face.
To book a consultation with Dr Mark Hanikeri please call 08 9380 0311.
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