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What is the Difference Between Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery?


Female model with two different colored facesWith almost 20 million procedures performed each year, plastic surgery has noticeably increased in popularity with men and women of all ages. If you’ve been thinking about undergoing plastic surgery it is beneficial to know if your procedure is cosmetic or reconstructive. While both types are considered “plastic surgery,” the procedures and the reasons they are performed are quite different from one another.

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery, also called “aesthetic plastic surgery,” describes procedures that are desired for aesthetic reasons. In other words, individuals who undergo cosmetic treatments do so electively to enhance their appearance and/or improve their self-esteem.

Examples of cosmetic surgery include:

Breast Augmentation: Increases the fullness and projection of the breasts with the use of implants filled with either saline or silicone gel.

Facial Injectables: Using a very fine needle, injectables like BOTOX® Cosmetic, Restylane®, and JUVÉDERM® provide a youthful facial appearance by reducing wrinkles and adding volume to areas of the face.

Liposuction: Gives individuals a slimmer physique by removing excess fat deposits from various areas of the face and body using a cannula (thin hollow tube) that is attached to a suctioning device.

Tummy Tuck: Eliminates excess fat and skin from the stomach area while tightening the abdominal muscles to provide individuals with a flatter, more defined midsection.

Although a consultation is needed to confirm, cosmetic surgery is usually not covered by insurance providers.

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery is performed to correct structures of the body that have suffered deformity as a result of congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, or traumatic injuries.

Examples of reconstructive surgery include:

Breast Reconstruction: After a mastectomy, a variety of techniques (flap, tissue expansion, implants) can be used to restore a normal looking appearance to the breasts.

Breast Reduction: Removes excess skin and glandular tissue from the breasts to put the bust in better proportion with the rest of the body.

Septoplasty: Straightens the nasal septum that has deviated to correct breathing problems. This procedure is often combined with a rhinoplasty.

Hand Surgery: Common problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and Dupuytren’s syndrome can be corrected through hand surgery.

Scar Repair: Scarring of all shapes and sizes can effectively be reduced using a wide range of treatments such as topical creams, minimally invasive procedures, and advanced wound techniques.

Although a consultation is needed to confirm, reconstructive surgery can be covered by insurance providers.

Some procedures such as rhinoplasty (nose surgery) and facial implants, can be performed for either cosmetic or reconstructive purposes, depending on the needs of the patient.

For more information about the cosmetic and reconstructive procedures that board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kimberly Henry offers, please feel free to contact her San Francisco practice today. Call (415) 924-1313 or feel free to fill out our online contact form to get started. Dr. Henry looks forward to helping you achieve an appearance that not only satisfies, but exceeds your expectations.

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Dr. Henry is dedicated to helping her clients feel gorgeous, sexy, and confident

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