Types of Plastic Surgery Subspecialties

reconstructive surgery on child
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Plastic surgery focuses on the reconstruction of facial and body defects that occur as a result of trauma, birth disorders, burns, and disease. Its intent is correct areas of the body that are dysfunctional and, by nature, is reconstructive.

Plastic surgery came into prominence during World War I when it was used for the reconstructive repair of soldiers in the French Army. In 1924 a formalized training program was established at Johns Hopkins by Dr. John Davis, the first professor of plastic surgery in the United States. With the efforts of plastic surgeons and emergency medicine physicians, shatterproof windshields were developed.


There are many areas of subspecialties within the field of plastic surgery. Some of them include:

  • Cranio-maxillofacial surgery
  • Microvascular surgery
  • Hand surgery
  • Cosmetic surgery

Plastic surgeons have special skill and knowledge in the management of complex wounds, microvascular and cranio-maxillofacial surgery, hand surgery, liposuction, and tissue transfer.


Plastic surgery procedures include the following:

  • Reconstruction of the breasts
  • Surgery for burn repair
  • Cleft palate repair
  • Repair of extremity defect
  • Reconstruction of the lower extremity
  • Hand surgery
  • Scar revision surgery

Cosmetic Surgery

Plastic surgery is sometimes confused with cosmetic surgery. While they are closely related, the specialties are not the same. Cosmetic surgery is an essential component of plastic surgery. The plastic surgeon will use the principles learned from cosmetic surgery to improve appearance and the outcome of reconstructive procedures.

Cosmetic surgery’s focus is on enhancing the patient’s appearance. This includes improving the aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion. Cosmetic surgery is performed on the head, neck, and body. Cosmetic surgery is an elective procedure because the areas of the body function properly. Cosmetic surgery is practiced by doctors from a variety of medical specialties, including plastic surgeons.

Cosmetic surgery procedures include the following:

Training for plastic surgery is completed after a general surgery residency and an additional two years of training in plastic surgery. The residency training may include a rotation in cosmetic surgery as part of the training but depending on the program, does not necessarily include training on every cosmetic procedure.

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