What is the American Board of Plastic Surgery?

a lot of doctors on realself are saying to go to a plastic surgeon nwho has a certification from the american board of plastic surgery. excuse the ignorence but what the heck does this mean? does this mean the doctor has passed a special test? once a doctor has the american board of plastic surgery qualification, how would i know for sure??

Doctor Answers 7

American Board of Plastic Surgery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

What an excellent question. So many doctors say they are "board certified' but what does this truly mean? To become board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery requires the following steps.

First, you must have completed a residency in plastic surgery that has been approved by the board of approved residency programs. I completed a 6 year program at Georgetown University Hospital.

Following graduation the physician must complete a written examination. During this same time he/she is gathering every detail about every surgery they are performing.

The plastic surgeon then submits all cases he/she has completed for 6 months. The board then has the surgeon complete and submit EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about those cases. In addition they will be given 10 unknown cases. This constitutes the oral portion of the boards.

The oral boards are given yearly-your 5 cases plus the 10 unknowns. I have personally never experienced anything so painful, difficult and stressful in my life. Even though I knew I did everything correct in my cases, defending them was a whole different situation. I studied daily for so many years and passed the first time. But many do not. There is no mercy. The American Board of Plastic Surgery only admits the most qualified surgeons. To figure out how often your surgeon took the exam or not, he/she should be board certified 1 year after they graduate residency. I graduated in 2004 and was board certified in 2005.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

I won't re-state what the other doctors have so well said but will simply add that in order to be certified by the ABPS a surgeon has to have had rigorous training for several years by an accredited residency training program and have passed detailed and stressful written and oral exams.

Anybody can call themselves "plastic surgeons" or "cosmetic surgeons" and the law allows this even to the detriment of public safety. However, the ABPS label should give you confidence that you have met a well-trained and "safe" doctor. Now, that being said, it doesn't mean that all docotrs are equal and some ABPS surgeons are just better than others.

American Board of Plastic Surgery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Not all “Plastic Surgeons” are qualified to perform plastic surgery. The American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) was formed in 1933 to serve in the public trust to certify and recognize a large group of physicians (specialists) who limited their practice of medicine or surgery to a certain area of the body, giving the specifics of what a physician had to do to become a member of that group. When a group wanted to become a “specialist” in organized medicine they had to apply to the ABMS for certification. The ABMS decided if their requirements were stringent enough and if the new specialty was approved.

Since 1933 the ABMS has been the only recognized body that watched over the specialty boards they approved and appointed new board specialties. During that time they have only approved twenty four specialties. Of the twenty four boards the only ones approved to do plastic surgery are the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), limited to the entire body, and the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ABOto), plastic surgery limited to the head and neck. All other boards that claim they perform plastic or cosmetic surgery are boards that are self appointed by the members themselves and are not approved by the ABMS.

You should be aware that just because a physician is boarded by the ABPS or ABOto does not mean he is an expert rhinoplasty surgeon. Many physicians tend to “sub-specialize” in other areas. Just because a surgeon is an expert in facelifts does not mean he performs rhinoplasty well and vise versa. That means you still have to be careful in choosing a surgeon. I limited my practice to rhinoplasty and if you would like to know how to choose a surgeon for your rhinoplasty I will give you my opinion if you will submit your question to Real Self.com. Sorry to be so verbose in answering this question but it is a very confusing issue.

Jack P. Gunter, MD (retired)
Dallas Plastic Surgeon

You might also like...

What is the American Board of Plastic Surgery?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Thank you for the important question. Unfortunately, differentiating the credentials of the variety of physicians who wish to provide "cosmetic surgery" services, can be very confusing to patients. Also unfortunately, there is no strict regulation set up to protect the consumer by state or national medical regulatory organizations. Therefore, patients must take the responsibility to ask the question: what are you board-certified in?

The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only board recognized by the American Board of medical specialties. Confirming that your surgeon is certified by the American Board of plastic surgeon is very important; this will assure you that your surgeon's undergone rigorous training, testing, and continued medical education necessary to become and remain board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are then potential candidates to join the American Society of Plastic Surgery and/or the Aesthetic Society of Plastic Surgery. These societies will have lists of their plastic surgeon members; these lists may be helpful when patients are seeking a board-certified plastic surgeon. in the process of selecting a plastic surgery I also encourage patients to ask to SEE lots of examples of their work AND preferably speak/see patients who have had similar procedures done.
Be very careful with your decision-making. You will find, while doing your due diligence, that there are many different “specialties” who will offer their services to you; again, I strongly recommend you concentrate on surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Be very careful with your decision-making. You will find, while doing your due diligence, that there are many different “specialties” who will offer their services to you; again, I strongly recommend you concentrate on surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Again, I cannot overemphasize the importance of careful selection of plastic surgeon when it comes to concerns such as safety, achievement of the desired outcome, and ability to manage complications that may arise (even in the best of hands). Keep in mind that revisionary surgery may be more costly in many ways. I hope this, and the attached link, helps. Best wishes.

Plastic Surgery Board Certification: A simple explanation.

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Patients often have a difficult time understanding this abstract concept so I often use and an analogy. When you buy an electrical product, how do you know it is safe? Well commonly in the USA there is a lab called Underwriter's Lab that tests products and places it's stamp of approval on it called the UL seal. In Europe this is called the CE mark. When a surgeon brings a piece of equpment to the hospital, the engineers look for the UL seal of approval. It is a sign of electrical safety, etc.

Well the American Board of Plastic Surgery is an organization that is granted the ability to approve and verify and credential doctors who have undergone plastic surgery training. The evaluation includes confirming training in an approved residency program, undergoing a separate written and oral examination with review of true patient cases and managment as well as letters of recommendation from other plastic surgeons in the community. A plastic surgeons board status can be verified by checking with the American Board of Plastic Surgery or membership in ASPS at www.plasticsurgery.org. IT is the equivalent of the UL seal of approval.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery Certification is the ONLY way to be certain your surgeon is properly trained!

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Hi there-

In short, certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery means the following:

1. That the surgeon in question successfully completed an accredited Plastic Surgery Residency Program. This means they trained for YEARS under the supervision of other Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.

2. That the surgeon successfully passed a comprehensive written examination of their plastic surgery knowledge.

3. That the surgeon then successfully passed a multiple day long ORAL examination of their knowledge, personality, decision-making, and judgement in plastic surgery, including a thorough review of their surgical outcomes and techniques.

You can easily and quickly check if your surgeon is properly trained and certified at The Board's site:


You should also be aware of the following:

a. There are only 24 Boards recognized by The American Board of Medical Specialties- the body responsible for overseeing medical training in the United States. There are many organizations calling themselves "boards" and giving out certificates to anyone with a heartbeat, but only certification by one of these 24 means the doctor completed proper training. Their site is: http://www.abms.org/

b. There are many people offering to do plastic surgery- and alarmingly, many are NOT plastic surgeons!. The law says any MD can do any procedure as long as they have a place to do it in, and as long as they can get patients to let them.

Believe it or not, this is true.

What traditionally has kept most unscrupulous doctors from just up and deciding to start doing procedures they are not trained to do has been hospital credentialing committees.

If you cannot prove to the hospital your RESIDENCY TRAINING trained you to do a procedure, the hospital will NOT allow you to do it there.

What has turned the system on its ear, and the reason you as a patient must be ever vigilant and careful, is that many plastic surgery procedures can (even if its not best to) be performed in the doctor's office.

When the procedure is done in the doctor's office, there's no one to verify the doctor has the appropriate training- before they start doing things to patients-

It is therefore incumbent on the patient to verify the surgeon's credentials BEFORE allowing something to be done to them!

c. Some of these unscrupulous and untrained, non-plastic surgeons will try to fool patients by listing themselves as Board Certified- but if you don't make sure it is by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, you could be putting yourself at risk of having liposuction by an eye doctor (believe it or not, this happens), or something similarly alarming. Most often this will appear this way:

"Board Certified, Plastic Surgery"

The comma is VERY significant, because it means their certification could be in ANYTHING and given by ANYBODY, but they do plastic surgery.

PLEASE be careful.

Knowing the surgeon you see is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the simplest way to maximize your safety and chances of long term satisfaction with your plastic surgery experience and outcome.

Meaning of Board Certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

To REALLY understand what "Board Certification" really means and clear through the confusion I would urge all reader to go to the comprehensive link posted below.

In brief, to raise the quality of American Medicine The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) was founded in 1933. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and its various boards, including the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), became THE pre-eminent entity overseeing the certification of ALL physician specialists in the United States and is comprised of 24 medical specialty boards which represent ALL medical specialties.

These 24 ABMS member boards oversee and issue certifications in more than 145 specialties and sub specialties. More than 700,000 physicians are certified by one or more ABMS Member Board. By 2003, more than >85% of all licensed physicians in the USA were certified by at least one ABMS member board. As a result, specialty board certification from an ABMS member board has become THE requisite gold standard in American Medicine.

Due to the sheer frequency of its use and abuse, the term "board-certified" has all but lost its true meaning. The confusing reality is that ANY American physician (not only surgeons), who wishes to do so, regardless of his or her actual medical training, can legally "practice" Plastic surgery. (In fact, any physician can also practice brain surgery or heart surgery, but few, if any, physicians are dumb enough to try doing it in their clinics).

There are only approximately 6,000 American Board of Plastic Surgery-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. But there are another 40,000 physicians and others who label themselves as either Plastic or Cosmetic surgeons who practice plastic surgery. The problem is immense. Anyone fresh out of medical school can legally hang up a shingle and take up Yellow Page ads stating that he or she is a plastic or cosmetic surgeon.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery, an AMBS member board, was founded in 1937, more than four decades before the other “plastic and cosmetic surgery boards” appeared on the medical landscape. The ABPS is the ONLY board truly charged and authorized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify Plastic surgeons in the USA in the full range of the art and procedures of Plastic Surgery.

Plastic Surgery is a surgical super-specialty. To be accepted into their highly competitive training programs, successful applicants must stand out from the others based on their skills, recommendations, clinical achievements and their examination scores. In addition, they have to have completed a preliminary minimum of 3 years of general surgery training, although most commonly, successful applicants had satisfactorily completed formal training and are board admissible or certified in either general surgery, neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, Otolaryngology or urology BEFORE they can begin training in Plastic Surgery. Subsequent training in Plastic Surgery, depending on the program, lasts an additional 2-3 years. As a result, few surgical specialties train for as long as REAL plastic surgeons do. With training lasting between 6 and 8 years after graduating from medical school, only Neurosurgery, Heart Surgery and some other surgical specialties (Pediatric and Transplantation) are as long.

If you want an easy way to pick a pre-screened, qualified plastic surgeon, pick an ACTIVE MEMBER of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The ASPS was founded in 1931 and to help its members render the highest quality plastic surgery care while maintaining high professional and ethical standards. Membership in the ASPS is a privilege conferred only on moral, ethical and experienced Plastic surgeons who have met multiple screening criteria.

Requirements for membership in the ASPS include board certification by the ABPS, being in the exclusive practice of only Plastic surgery, being recommended by their local Plastic surgery peers, passing a review by the membership committee and being voted in by 80% of all ASPS members.

ASPS members must also continuously participate in continuing education and adhere to a strict and commonly enforced Code of Ethics to protect our patients. No other surgical society has such a code. Furthermore, unlike other societies, the ASPS promotes patient safety. All ASPS members MUST only operate in accredited surgical facilities that have passed rigorous external inspection of equipment and staffing and members demonstrate attending over 20 hours of lectures on patient safety every three years.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.