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People have many misconceptions and oversimplified ideas about plastic surgery. While many associate the field with the material plastic, the word actually comes from the Greek word meaning "to mold". Almost all plastic surgeries have some cosmetic element, but many procedures focus on reconstruction. In 2011, the most common reconstructive surgeries were tumor removal and laceration repair, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
"Reconstructive surgery restores the normal and cosmetic surgery improves on the normal," said Dr. Rod Rohrich, professor and chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
But plastic surgery is only part of the equation. Following reconstructive surgery, a patient typically requires rehabilitation. Exercise needs to be done after liposuction. And while cosmetic surgery can tighten skin, a patient may have to apply post-cosmetic surgery creams to minimize lines. Surgical and nonsurgical procedures "can complement and enhance each other, but they don't replace each other," said Dr. Alan Matarasso, a plastic surgeon practicing in Manhattan, and a spokesman for ASPS.
Regardless of the type of surgery someone ultimately has, prospective patients need to understand the risks and benefits of each and have realistic expectations about what it can do. Here, seven common misconceptions are laid to rest:
Liposuction is an effective way to lose weightSlide 2 of 15
Liposuction is an effective way to lose weight
False. While liposuction involves removing fat from the body, it's designed to remove fat from trouble spots. For a healthy person with excess fat in a specific area, liposuction may work well. However, it removes 10 to 12 pounds, tops.
That's why, Matarasso said, the procedure may be most helpful in someone who is healthy and prefers a slightly different body shape.
"You can't go to the gym and say I want to get rid of my love handles," he said. Liposuction allows that targeting.
"When you lose weight, you lose it overall," Matarasso said. "Weight loss through liposuction is site specific."Slide 3 of 15
Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery mean the same thingSlide 4 of 15
Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery mean the same thing
Because plastic surgery entails a repair or enhancement, almost any procedure has a cosmetic element. But the names are not equivalent.
"Cosmetic surgery is a very generic term," Rohrich said.The terms go beyond semantics, however. Board certification in plastic surgery from the American Board of Plastic Surgeons means a physician has completed five years in surgical training at an accredited hospital, with at least two years dedicated to plastic surgery.
Physicians in other disciplines may have some training in plastic surgery; for example, an ophthalmologist may be trained to perform cosmetic procedures around the eyes. However, a medical degree and some form of certification in cosmetic surgery does not equal that level of training. That's why prospective patients need to ask about a physician's training.Slide 5 of 15
Plastic surgery is surgery without scarsSlide 6 of 15
Plastic surgery is surgery without scars
"Any time you pick up a knife and cut the skin, a scar results," Matarasso said. What plastic surgeons do, however, is minimize the appearance of scars.
How visible a scar might be is determined by how the surgical incision is closed; how it is cared for after the operation; and where the incision is made. Typically, a plastic surgeon will make an incision in an area where there are natural creases in the skin, which helps hide the scar. But some physical evidence of the procedure will always be present.
"We operate with scalpels, not wands," Rohrich said.Slide 7 of 15
Breast augmentation is a one-time procedureSlide 8 of 15