Who gets the most cosmetic surgery training & experience in residency?

Myth #1:

Many people mistakenly believe that plastic surgery residency teaches only reconstructive surgical techniques, and not the cosmetic ones.

Myth #2:

Many people think that the more anatomically limited fields of dermatology, ophthalmology, or facial plastic surgery must get more cosmetic surgery experience during residency than the over-worked plastic surgery resident, who has to master techniques covering the entire body, including craniofacial, burns, pediatric plastics and hand surgery, during their residency.The reality:  neither myth is true.  Plastic surgery teaches both cosmetic and reconstructive techniques.  They actually support each other – you can perform a better looking reconstruction if you know what the “beautiful normal” version of a body part looks like.

Comparing the surgical training in the various different fields

In terms of comparing the surgical training in the various different fields, each resident is required to keep a log book of their operative experience.  This is tallied up and submitted to the all-powerful RRC (the national residency review committee) prior to graduation, to make sure each resident has received enough experience in a variety of cases.  You don’t get to graduate and take your board exams unless these numbers pass muster….so it’s a very important thing.Well, a group of researchers got the bright idea to look at this collected RRC data, comparing all the programs in the U.S in dermatology, otolaryngology (ENT/facial plastics), ophthalmology and plastic surgery, to see what the average surgical resident in each field did during their training.  Drum roll please…… For your enjoyment, here are the data on three popular procedures that are shared by several fields: blepharoplasty, facelift and liposuction.


1.  Blepharoplasty (eyelid lift)

Plastic surgery residents graduating in 2010 completed an average of 31.4 blepharoplasties. During the same year, residents in ophthalmology and otolaryngology (facial plastics) graduated with 9.1 and 6.3 procedures each. This relationship was also true for the graduating classes of 2007-2009. So, graduating plastic surgeons have three times more cosmetic blepharoplasty experience than graduating ophthalmologists and five times more exxperience than a graduating facial plastic surgeon.

2.  Facelift

Plastic surgery residents graduating in 2010 completed an average of 21.9 facelifts. During the same year, residents in otolaryngology (facial plastics) graduated with an average of 5.2 facelifts. This relationship was also true for the years 2006-2009. So the average plastic surgery trainee has four times the facelift experience of a graduating facial plastic surgeon.

3.  Liposuction:

Whereas residents graduating plastic surgery in 2010 completed an average of 40.5 liposuctions, trainees in dermatology and otolaryngology graduated with 0.2 and 1.1 liposuction cases, respectively. The average volume of liposuction recorded by a graduating plastic surgery resident was almost 40 times that performed by the average dermatology or otolaryngology resident. This relationship proved to be similar for analysis of residents graduating in 2009, 2008, and 2007

Bottom line:  plastic surgery graduates have substantially more cosmetic surgery experience than graduates from either facial plastic surgery (oto), dermatology, or ophthalmology.  So, who are you going to “trust your face to” now?

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