So what is the difference between a ‘plastic surgeon’ vs an ‘aesthetic surgeon’ vs a ‘cosmetic surgeon?
In South Africa a plastic surgeon
completes an additional 7-10 years of surgical training after qualifying as a General Practitioner. 4 to 5 years of this, is in a dedicated training program in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery They then pass national examinations run by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.
Only plastic surgeons specialised in the principles and techniques of plastic surgery have the ability to manage risks and complications unique to plastic surgery.
A ‘cosmetic surgeon’
is a doctor who performs aesthetic surgeries without necessarily being trained in plastic surgery techniques.
It is important to note that the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) does not recognise any specialty of ‘cosmetic medicine’ or ‘cosmetic surgery’. The only recognised qualification and registration relating to plastic surgery, is that of a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
Lastly, ‘aesthetic surgeon’
is also not a recognised specialty; and is merely a term used to describe a qualified, registered plastic surgeon who chooses to do less reconstructive work and focuses mostly on aesthetic surgeries.
Yet regardless of whether your surgeon markets themselves as a ‘cosmetic’, ‘aesthetic’ or ‘plastic’ surgeon, you must check that they are qualified as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with the HPCSA – and that they are registered with the Association of Plastic Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgeons of South Africa (APRASSA), before considering going under the knife for a surgical procedure.
To help you validate your doctor’s qualifications to ensure you have the safest plastic surgery experience possible:
- Ask if your doctor is a qualified plastic surgeon and registered with APRASSA.
- If your doctor says “I’m registered with the HPCSA”, ask him or her “in what specialty?” They should be registered in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, not in some other specialty as they may have only taken what amounts to weekend or short-term courses to do plastic surgery procedures.
- Look for a plaque or certificate in the doctor’s office that indicates that they are an APRASSA member.
- If you have any doubts about their certification go to www.aprassa.co.za, click on “Find a Surgeon” to check if your doctor appears in the results or call +27 11 784 4537.
- You can also check that your doctor is actively registered with the HPCSA by going to the following link http://isystems.hpcsa.co.za/iregister/, enter your doctor’s name or select ‘Category’, then Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Take home message
As a patient, you want to look and feel your best after undergoing aesthetic surgery to alter your looks. To ensure that you have a safe, positive experience, remember that surgery is an important and costly decision. You should take time to research your desired procedure and ensure that your surgeon is appropriately qualified.
Written by Dr Isabel Do Vale