Public Perception of Cosmetic Surgeons versus Plastic Surgeons: Increasing Transparency to Educate Patients

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Abstract

Background:

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ “Do Your Homework” campaign strives to educate the public on how to identify providers who can safely perform aesthetic/cosmetic/plastic surgery. Although the campaign continues to heighten awareness, misperceptions remain in determining who these providers are. This study aims to examine whether the general public is confused by the titles “plastic surgeon” or “cosmetic surgeon,” and accordingly, evaluates whether misperceptions need to be remedied to have an informed and safe patient.

Methods:

A 19-question survey was created under the guidance of a survey methodologist. Responses were obtained and cross-tabulation analyses were performed with statistical analysis.

Results:

Five thousand one hundred thirty-five individuals completed the survey. Eighty-seven percent of patients either believed that surgeons must be appropriately credentialed to legally advertise themselves, or were unsure. The majority of respondents were uncomfortable with obstetrician-gynecologists (92 percent), dermatologists (68 percent), general surgeons (74 percent), and family practice physicians (93 percent) performing surgery to improve their appearance. Persons with lower education and lower income levels were more likely to believe that surgeons must be appropriately credentialed to legally market themselves, and were more likely to assume that to legally perform aesthetic surgery, one must be board certified in plastic surgery.

Conclusion:

The authors’ data demonstrate that the combination of problematic medical marketing, recognized and unrecognized boards, and varying categorizations of surgeons has made it increasingly difficult for a patient to interpret the necessary information to decide which physician can safely perform surgery to improve one’s appearance.

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