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When talking about body augmentation and changes, you may use the terms cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery interchangeably - but there’s a clear difference between the two of them. In this blog post we’ll break down exactly why that is the case and what each term actually means.

What is plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery is an essential procedure that is performed by specialist surgeons to repair damage to skin and tissue from injuries or problems present at birth. With this type of surgery, appearance isn’t the primary reason patients undergo operations, instead patients undertake these kind of operations to restore or return tissue to a normal state.

Examples of plastic surgery include:

  • Skin grafts - for injuries sustained in fire or acid attacks
  • Breast reconstruction - to replace breast tissue lost after a mastectomy
  • Birthmark removal - to remove birthmarks that may reduce patient quality of life

Plastic surgery is performed on both men and women - and it can have significant benefits for the recipient. On the physical side, surgery will encourage patients’ bodies to heal and return to a state before the affliction was sustained. Further, plastic surgery has significant mental health benefits. It can boost self-esteem and self confidence, and can even help people come to terms with an accident.

In most UK cases, plastic surgery is conducted on the NHS. It is typically classified as ‘essential’ to a patient's health and wellbeing.

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery are procedures that patients volunteer to undergo. These procedures are usually undertaken to improve their physical appearance, which unlike plastic surgery are just for aesthetic purposes. Despite being deemed non-essential in medicine, this kind of surgery can grant significant emotional benefits. Cosmetic surgery has the potential to visually improve areas that patients may feel embarrassed, ashamed or stressed about.

Types of cosmetic surgery include:

  • Breast augmentation - a procedure where a breast tissue is either removed or enhanced using implants
  • Tummy tucks - a procedure where fat, or excess loose skin is removed to improve the shape of the abdomen
  • Hair replacement - procedures to replace missing hair on a patient's body. Typically hair replacement takes place on the head.

Anybody can choose to have cosmetic surgery as long as they are in a reasonable state of health and the surgeon is willing to operate. In many cases, people choose to undergo cosmetic surgery in order to improve a part of their body they are dissatisfied with.

Physically, people who have undergone successful cosmetic surgery report they are satisfied with the results and can actually ‘see and feel’ the difference. Emotionally, some patients report relief and tremendous satisfaction with their newly improved body.

In the vast majority of UK cases, cosmetic surgery is not available on the NHS. Patients seeking treatment usually have to go privately.

If you’re considering surgery, check credentials

As cosmetic surgery becomes more popular in the UK, it is imperative to establish a surgeon’s credentials if you are considering cosmetic surgery.

For more information about how to find a safe cosmetic surgeon, visit our five-point checklist ‘How to choose a cosmetic surgeon and avoid potential health risks’, here.

If you have been a victim of clinical negligence during a cosmetic procedure, contact us on 0800 634 0285 or email us using our online enquiry form here.

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