What is a Plastic Surgeon?

A plastic surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in performing surgical procedures to enhance or alter a person's appearance. These procedures may include reconstructive surgery to repair physical defects caused by birth defects, trauma, burns, or disease. Plastic surgeons may also perform cosmetic surgery, which involves altering the appearance of a person's face or body to improve their aesthetic appeal.

Plastic surgeons work closely with their patients to understand their desired outcomes and create personalized treatment plans. They are often sought out for their expertise in using the latest surgical technology and techniques to provide safe, effective, and natural-looking results.

What does a Plastic Surgeon do?

A plastic surgeon operating on a patient.

Duties and Responsibilities
Plastic surgeons have a wide range of duties and responsibilities related to the surgical and non-surgical management of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. Some common duties and responsibilities of plastic surgeons include:

  • Patient Consultation: Plastic surgeons meet with patients to discuss their aesthetic goals or reconstructive needs. They evaluate patients' medical history, perform physical examinations, and provide personalized recommendations for surgical or non-surgical treatment options.
  • Surgical Procedures: Plastic surgeons perform a variety of surgical procedures to enhance or reconstruct different parts of the body. Cosmetic procedures may include breast augmentation, rhinoplasty (nose surgery), liposuction, facelifts, and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). Reconstructive procedures may include breast reconstruction after mastectomy, cleft lip and palate repair, burn reconstruction, and skin cancer excision with reconstruction.
  • Preoperative Preparation: Prior to surgery, plastic surgeons educate patients about the procedure, including potential risks and benefits, and ensure they have realistic expectations. They may order preoperative tests, prescribe medications, and provide instructions for preoperative care to optimize surgical outcomes.
  • Surgical Techniques: Plastic surgeons utilize advanced surgical techniques, including traditional open surgery, minimally invasive techniques, and microsurgery, to achieve optimal aesthetic and functional results. They must have precise surgical skills and knowledge of anatomy to safely perform procedures and minimize complications.
  • Postoperative Care: Plastic surgeons provide comprehensive postoperative care to monitor patients' recovery and address any complications that may arise. They follow up with patients regularly to assess healing progress, remove sutures or dressings as needed, and provide guidance on postoperative care instructions and activity restrictions.
  • Non-Surgical Procedures: In addition to surgical interventions, plastic surgeons may offer non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as injectable fillers, botulinum toxin injections (e.g., Botox), laser skin resurfacing, chemical peels, and nonsurgical body contouring procedures.
  • Collaboration with Multidisciplinary Teams: Plastic surgeons often work closely with other medical specialists, including dermatologists, oncologists, otolaryngologists, and orthopedic surgeons, to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex medical or surgical needs.
  • Research and Education: Many plastic surgeons are actively involved in research and education to advance the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery. They may participate in clinical trials, publish research articles, and present findings at medical conferences to contribute to the body of knowledge in the field.

Types of Plastic Surgeons
Plastic surgery is a diverse field with various subspecialties, each focusing on different areas of the body and specific surgical techniques. Here are some common types of plastic surgeons:

  • Burn Surgeons: Burn surgeons focus on the management and surgical treatment of burn injuries, including acute burn care, wound debridement, skin grafting, and scar reconstruction. They work closely with multidisciplinary burn teams to provide comprehensive care for burn patients throughout their recovery process.
  • Cosmetic Surgeons: Cosmetic surgeons specialize in enhancing patients' appearance through elective surgical procedures aimed at improving aesthetic features. They perform procedures such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, facelifts, liposuction, and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) to achieve desired cosmetic outcomes.
  • Craniofacial Surgeons: Craniofacial surgeons focus on the surgical treatment of congenital and acquired abnormalities of the skull, face, and jaws. They perform procedures such as craniosynostosis correction, cleft lip and palate repair, facial reconstruction after trauma or cancer, and orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery) to improve facial harmony and function.
  • Hand Surgeons: Hand surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of hand and upper extremity injuries and conditions. They address a wide range of hand-related issues, including fractures, tendon injuries, nerve compression syndromes, congenital deformities, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Microvascular Surgeons: Microvascular surgeons specialize in procedures involving the small blood vessels and microcirculation of tissues. They are trained to perform surgeries that involve reattaching or rerouting tiny blood vessels, often using a microscope and specialized instruments. Microvascular surgery is commonly used in reconstructive procedures, such as tissue transplantation (flaps) for reconstructing defects after trauma, cancer resection, or congenital anomalies.
  • Reconstructive Surgeon: Reconstructive surgeons focus on restoring form and function to parts of the body affected by congenital abnormalities, trauma, cancer, or other medical conditions. They perform procedures such as breast reconstruction after mastectomy, cleft lip and palate repair, skin cancer excision with reconstruction, and burn reconstruction.

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What is the workplace of a Plastic Surgeon like?

The workplace of a plastic surgeon can vary depending on their specialization and practice setting. Many plastic surgeons work in private practice or group practices, where they have their own office or share facilities with other healthcare providers. These offices are equipped with consultation rooms, examination rooms, and minor procedure rooms where non-surgical treatments such as injectables and laser procedures can be performed. Additionally, private practice plastic surgeons may have access to outpatient surgical centers or hospitals where they can perform surgical procedures requiring anesthesia.

Plastic surgeons may also work in academic medical centers or hospitals, where they may have teaching responsibilities in addition to their clinical practice. In these settings, plastic surgeons may be involved in training medical students, residents, and fellows in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery. They may also participate in research activities, clinical trials, and interdisciplinary collaborations with other medical specialties to advance the field of plastic surgery.

Regardless of their practice setting, plastic surgeons typically have a busy and dynamic work environment that involves a mix of patient consultations, surgical procedures, follow-up appointments, and administrative tasks. They may work long hours, including evenings and weekends, to accommodate patient schedules and surgical caseloads.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


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See Also
Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician

Pros and Cons of Being a Plastic Surgeon

Becoming a plastic surgeon offers numerous benefits and challenges. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  • Professional Fulfillment: Plastic surgeons have the opportunity to make a significant impact on patients' lives by improving their appearance, restoring function, and enhancing their self-confidence and quality of life through surgical and non-surgical interventions.
  • High Earning Potential: Plastic surgery is one of the highest-paying medical specialties, with plastic surgeons often earning significant salaries due to the specialized skills and training required for the profession. Private practice plastic surgeons, in particular, have the potential to earn substantial income.
  • Diverse Practice Opportunities: Plastic surgeons have a diverse range of practice opportunities, including private practice, academic medicine, hospital-based practice, and multispecialty group practices. They can choose to specialize in cosmetic or reconstructive surgery or pursue a combination of both.
  • Artistic and Technical Skill: Plastic surgery requires a unique blend of artistic vision and technical skill to achieve optimal aesthetic and functional outcomes for patients. Plastic surgeons have the opportunity to express their creativity and innovation through surgical procedures.
  • Personal Satisfaction: Many plastic surgeons find personal satisfaction in the challenging and rewarding nature of their work, as well as the positive impact they have on patients' lives. Seeing the transformation and improvement in patients' appearance and confidence can be deeply gratifying.


  • Extensive Training: Becoming a plastic surgeon requires a long and rigorous educational and training pathway, including four years of medical school, a five to seven-year residency program in plastic surgery, and potential additional fellowship training. The training pathway is demanding and requires a significant time commitment.
  • High Stress and Pressure: Plastic surgery is inherently high-stress and high-pressure, with surgeons often dealing with complex cases, demanding patients, and the potential for complications. The pressure to achieve optimal results and meet patient expectations can be intense.
  • Liability Risks: Plastic surgeons may face the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits in the event of adverse surgical outcomes or patient dissatisfaction. Malpractice insurance premiums can be high, and legal challenges can be emotionally and financially taxing.
  • Work-Life Balance: Plastic surgeons may have demanding work schedules, including long hours, evenings, weekends, and on-call duties. Balancing professional responsibilities with personal life can be challenging, particularly for surgeons in private practice or academic medicine.
  • Ethical Considerations: Plastic surgeons may encounter ethical dilemmas related to patient autonomy, informed consent, and the appropriate use of surgical interventions for cosmetic purposes. Balancing patients' desires for aesthetic improvement with ethical principles and professional standards can be challenging.