Plastic Surgeon  What They Do

Just the Facts

Surgeons Career Video

Insider Info

dotPlastic surgery is a surgical specialty dedicated to the reconstruction of facial and body structures. This procedure may be considered necessary because of birth disorders, trauma, burns, disease or personal preference.

It also involves making people look better through facelifts (lifting and stretching the skin to tighten it), rhinoplasty (restructuring the shape of the nose) and liposuction (removing fat from the body using a surgical vacuum).

Plastic surgery constitutes reconstructive surgery (repairing damage or fixing abnormalities) as well as esthetic surgery (improving the way a patient looks).

dotPlastic surgery gets its name from the Greek word plastikos, which means mold or shape. "The ability to take tissue and pull it, bend it, transfer it or otherwise create structures is where the word 'plastic surgery' comes from," says Dr. Michael Bermant, a surgeon from Virginia.

Bermant says his job involves a lot of problem solving. "We take problems and mold or bend the flesh to try to come up with a solution," he says.

"That might mean taking tissue that doesn't look like an ear and making it look like an ear, or taking a lip that's split when born and bringing it back together again so it can heal and work like a lip.

"Plastic surgery is really an art," Bermant adds. "The body is the medium we work with. We explore and try to learn the science and laws of flesh so we can best work with this material and improve our results."

Since plastic surgeons make use of current technology, their business is constantly evolving. "The most exciting thing happening to the field of plastic the great growth of new technology," says Dr. Lee Edstom, a plastic surgeon working in Rhode Island.

"Specifically, laser instruments are going to revolutionize our practices, at least in cosmetic surgery. We now have lasers that resurface the skin, tighten the skin, remove hair and eliminate the tiny spider veins on the legs and face."

dotPlastic surgeons may specialize in one area -- cosmetic surgery, hand surgery, rhinoplasty or treating scars from face or neck cancer, for example -- or they may deal with a broad spectrum of problems.

dotThe work a plastic surgeon does is highly visible, leading to a high degree of career and personal satisfaction. The discipline requires meticulous attention to detail, sound judgment and technical expertise. Most surgeons work long, hard hours, especially early on in their careers.

"On average, we work 50 hours a week," says Dr. Donald Capuano, a surgeon in Rochester, New York. "Initially, you work 60 to 70 hours a week, and you have to be ready to leave your supper, your family, your kids, and go. You have to be ready to be tired and be ready to perform while tired. Basically, you have to have a lot of energy."

At a Glance

Surgically reconstruct facial and body defects

  • Technological advancements mean changes to the job
  • Surgeons may specialize in one area, such as cosmetic surgery, hand surgery or rhinoplasty
  • You'll need a medical degree with specializations in general and plastic surgery