Difference Between Facial Plastic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon and an ENT or Otolaryngologist?

What the difference is between an ear nose and throat doctor and a facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon? Can an ENT perform a nose job?
**Note from RealSelf** Our site is designed to help consumers make confident choices and the below answers have lost this spirit.

To see the criteria RealSelf uses to list a doctor as a Facial Plastic Surgeon, please visit our Professional Policies.  Doctors listed as a 'Facial Plastic Surgeon' on RealSelf are eligible to discuss treatments and procedures for any "neck-up" procedures, including those of the face, ear, nose and throat areas.  As always, consumers should do their due-diligence in researching an individual doctors experience and credentials when choosing their surgeon.

Doctor Answers 14

Fact vs. opinion!

Apparently Dr. Rand & Edelson are just as confused about the differences as most of the public.

Worst yet, Dr. Alexander II and Edelson are still using some of the marketing and advertising lines that have been used in the past but most current plastic surgeons and facial plastic surgeons have moved beyond.  The "turf wars" are a thing of the past - at least for most part.  Wherever there is lots of competition and saturation of doctors you will see some nonsense territorial remarks that often come out of insecurity. Plastic surgeons and Facial plastic surgeons have meetings and conferences and work and operate together very cordially today.  

Also, facial plastic surgeons do not appreciate being called an ENT. That's like calling a plastic surgeon, a general surgeon! In medicine, doctors are referred to by their final subspecialization. Doctor like Alexander, Edelson and Rand show ignorance and disrespect by calling a facial plastic surgeon an ENT.  Given the strong views and opinions Dr. Alexander holds, I am now surprised to find out he performs a procedure that was invented by an E.R. Doctor - the "quick lift!"

There are facts and then there are opinions and these doctors' opinions do not serve the public nor help patients find the most qualified surgeons. 

Here are facts:

An "ENT" is also known as an "Otolaryngologist - Head & Neck surgeon."

Those are the same.  They have a 5-6 year residency dealing with ALL aspects of surgery and disease of the face, neck, ears, sinuses, skull base, nose and the bony and soft tissue of everything above the shoulders with the exception of teeth and brain.  They are trained and Board Certified by the ABMS in "Plastic Surgery of the Head and Neck." Their training and board certification in plastic surgery of the face, head and neck is exclusively focused on those regions.  They should not be doing tummy tucks or breast augmentations.  

Plastic Surgeons are trained and certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the entire body including hands, burn, reconstruction, cosmetics, of the entire body.  

Facial Plastic Surgeons are EITHER Plastic Surgeons or ENT surgeons who ave already done one of those two residencies and been already board certified by the ABMS but then go above and beyond and do another additional year of training exclusively focused on the face and neck and nose.  

Any of the above 3 specialists are technically trained and certified to do cosmetic surgery on the face and neck and nose but like anything else, training programs vary and so do the hands and skills of surgeons so just because someone is trained in something or certified, it does not mean they will be equal to another surgeon in skill and results.  

Do your homework about each surgeon and do not buy the hype.  Find a surgeon who does more Rhinoplasty surgeries than any other surgery.  Rhinoplasty is very complex and trusting your nose to a "jack of all trades" does not often give you the best results.  Search, interview, visit, scrutinize and make sure you ultimately trust your nose to the correct surgeon.

Good luck





Washington DC Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 106 reviews

Facial Plastic, Plastic, ENT or Otolaryngologist?

I expect you are confused, because just about the entire general public is too. When there are overlaping areas of competence between specialties, there is the possibility of conflict. There are several such areas in medicine today. Orthopedics and Neurosurgery interact with spinal surgery, Gastroenterologists and General Surgeons both perform colonoscopies, Sports Medicine and Physiatry are both involved in physiotherapy. And there is for the most part friendly competition amongst them. However in the area of Cosmetic Surgery the 'turf war' unfortunately is sometimes bitter and acrimonious. 

The 2 major players are Plastics and Otolaryngology, although Opthalmology and Dermatology are clearly also involved. Plastic surgeons often feel they 'own' the term and can be upset when others use it. Otolaryngologists are cursed with an unpronouncable name and often use Facial Plastic surgery to identify what they do to the public. Currently there are few doctors who would not support the position that both specialties share competency in Rhinoplasty surgery. Therefore a patient should look beyond the titles and try to select the best surgeon for the job.

Oakley Smith, MD, FRCSC
Toronto Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

Focus on your what your surgeon specializes in

The key is to have your rhinoplasty performed by a surgeon who performs rhinoplasty regularly, with excellent results.  You don't want to go to a surgeon who performs rhinoplasty on a very occasional basis, as it is an operation that requires skill, judgement, and learning from one's own operative experiences and results.  There are expert board certified otolaryngologists (ENT surgeons), facial plastic surgeons (otolaryngologists or general plastic surgeons with additional training and/or extensive experience with plastic surgery of the face and neck) and general plastic surgeons who are competent and skilled at rhinoplasty.  Again, you need to find one that does rhinoplasty frequently and well.

There are several surgeons who have talked about "turf wars."  Based on the proliferation of dentists, internists, ER docs, etc... that are performing injectables and cosmetic laser treatments, it should be clear that there has always been and there always will be competition amongst specialties for this type of work.  Try to ignore hype and marketing ploys and instead focus on results.  In fact, results have driven facial plastic surgeons to speak at general plastic surgery conferences, and vice versa!

I do disagree with Dr. Alexander's statement:  "cosmetic surgery exposure tends to be greater in plastic surgery residencies".  I am not sure what the basis for this subjective comment is.  There are otolaryngology (ENT) programs where plastic surgery of the face and neck is a major focus of training.  There are others where it is limited.  By the same token, there are plastic surgery residencies where the focus is on reconstructive surgery, burns, decubitus ulcers, hand surgery etc... with little cosmetic exposure.  Vice versa, there are plastic surgery residencies/fellowships with extensive exposure to cosmetic surgery.

Those surgeons who pursue additional fellowships in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, or in aesthetic facial/craniofacial surgery, have devoted additional time and study to become proficient in plastic surgery of the face and neck. 

Bottom line, ignore the turf wars.  Trust your face to a specialist.

Anurag Agarwal, MD
Naples Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Rhinoplasty Surgeons


ENT doctors (also known as otolaryngologists) have a long history of performing cosmetic and reconstructive rhinoplasty among other cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. We are well versed in all types of nasal disease and well trained in nasal surgery, especially rhinoplasty.

The training in otolaryngology- head and neck surgery includes at least a year of general surgery and then four additional years of head and neck surgery. Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery is a major portion of our training: at LEAST 25 percent of our training is in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery- that is plastic surgery of the head and neck region. Our training affords us a great exposure to cosmetic surgery of the face, as well as reconstruction. Some of us go on to a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstruction just as some of the general plastic surgeons who spent several years learning body contouring, reconstruction, hand and burn will go on to an aesthetic fellowship. Our training is simply- different.


turf war? really? that is so '80s...



Suzanne Kim Doud Galli, MD, PhD, FACS
Washington Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Is it okay for an ENT to do a nose job?

As Dr. Naderi mentioned, an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor (otolaryngologist) is trained to perform surgery of the nose, which may include rhinoplasty (nose jobs). Not all otolaryngologists have this background, however.

Facial Plastic surgeons have additional board certification dealing with cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the head, face and neck only. Plastic Surgeons have training that includes the rest of the body (breast, hand, burns, tummy tucks, etc.). Some plastic surgeons focus their practice on the face whereas others may never perform facial surgery.

Septoplasty is a pretty common surgery for otolaryngologists to perform. Though your surgery went well doesn't necessarily mean that your surgeon can also do a rhinoplasty. You should ask to see before and after photos of other patients your surgeon has done and find out how much experience he or she has with this surgery.

Rhinoplasty is generally considered one of the most complex surgeries within our field so you want to do your homework when selecting your surgeon.

Thomas A. Lamperti, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

ENT, Facial Plastics or Plastic Surgeon

I think that a good rhinoplasty surgeon can come from any one of these backgrounds. I am a bit surprised that you did not have the rhinopalsty performed at the same time as your septal surgery.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Confused? Don't blame you

An otolaryngologist/head & neck surgeon is trained to operate on all structures in the head and neck excluding brains, spines, and eyeballs (in a nutshell). 25% of the board certification exam for otolaryngologists covers facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. The term "ENT" is an abbreviation for an otolaryngologist.

Facial plastic & reconstructive surgeons can become board certified as such in one of two ways.  First, they can complete an accredited fellowship focusing in FPRS only for at least one year following completion of EITHER an "ENT" or plastic surgery residency. They must then complete an oral and written board exam and submit a case log of at least 1 1/2 years of procedures performed to establish competence. Alternatively, board-certified "ENTs" or plastic surgeons that do not complete a fellowship must submit a more extensive case log and pass the same exams. 

Hope that helps. 

Colin Pero, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Nose Job: Great Question, Complicated Answer

Historically speaking, what we describe as "Plastic Surgery" long predates the development of modern medicine, or even the foundation of the United States.  Modern Plastic Surgery, or indeed modern Facial Plastic Surgery arose from the great need created by World Wars I and II to treat traumatic defects of the face and body.  The Surgeons who were instrumental in developing techniques were General Surgeons, Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Surgeons, Ophthalmologists, Oral Surgeons, and Orthopedic Surgeons.  Sir Harold Delf Gillies, a pioneer in facial reconstructive surgery, was an Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Surgeon from New Zealand.  Jaque Joseph, largely credited with the first cosmetic Rhinoplasty, was Austrian Orthopedic Surgeon. The less interesting part of the history is the ugly "turf battles" which ensued in the 20th century between General Plastic Surgeons and Facial Plastic Surgeons (who have the basis of their training in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery).  The use of the term "ENT" is a bit of a historical put down revived by the partisan quips of Dr. Alexander.  I think that marketing terms like "Quicklift" which is advocated by Dr. Alexander, deserve far more scrutiny than do the credentials of a Facial Plastic Surgeon.

The facts are as follows:  1) Facial Plastic Surgery belongs in the hands of someone who specializes in the face.  This can include a Surgeon trained in Facial Plastic Surgery or Plastic Surgery,

2)  It is hard to find a Surgeon more qualified to perform a Rhinoplasty than a Facial Plastic Surgeon.  A large percentage of Facial Plastic Surgeons and General Plastic Surgeons finished in the top 10% of their medical school classes, and are competitive, well trained Surgeons.

3) Both General Plastic Surgeons and Facial Plastic Surgeons receive cosmetic and reconstructive surgery training in the face; the extent of this training varies with the individual program, not the specialty,

4) The ABMS was founded by the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology (in the early 20th century) and recognizes the ability of Otolaryngologists to perform Facial Plastic Surgery.  The lack of inclusion of Facial Plastic Surgery is, in itself a historical turf battle.  For this reason, Facial Plastic Surgery shares ABMS equivalency in Florida and all states in the Union.  This is an argument that those most interested in a "turf battle" seem to cling to; I have found that most patients prefer specialization in the face to Surgeons who bad mouth other Surgeons.

5) As eloquently stated by Dr. Agarwal, the general public has far more to fear with Dentists performing Facelifts and Botox, with Gynecologists performing tummy tucks, and Family Medicine Doctors using lasers than they do from a Facial Plastic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon performing a Rhinoplasty.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Your ENT may give you the nose of your dreams if he's a good nose job surgeon.

I read your concern:

It would have been best if you had your Rhinoplasty Surgery performed at the time of your septoplasty. I nearly always use septal cartilage for tip support (columella-strut) when performing rhinoplasty with tip alterations. I cannot comment on your particular case without seeing your photos. 

If your ENT is expert at performing nose jobs, this procedure is certainly within his realm of expertise. In my area, there is an ENT that performs many artful rhinoplasties, and he does not have ABFPRS certification. Check lots of before and after photos before proceeding, and it may be helpful to know how many nose jobs he performs yearly, and how many years he's been in practice. Positive rhinoplasty reviews would be a plus.

The heated remarks from the RealSelf experts are interesting.

Bottom line: There are good rhinoplasty surgeons in all 3 specialties: ENT, FPS, and PS. You may get an optimal result if your surgeon is expert at nose jobs and performs many, regardless of specialty.

Opinion: Facial plastic surgeons have the largest number of good rhinoplasty surgeons. ABFPRS.org will give you a list of certified specialists.

More opinion: I refer to myself as an ENT, and do not find this verbiage disrespectful. When I was in med school, I would have given anything to secure a residency in otolaryngology (ENT), and I'm blessed to have certification in both ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery.

Good luck with your search for the best rhinoplasty expert for you.

Dr. Joseph 

Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 418 reviews

Difference between facial plastic surgeon and plastic surgeon.

Thank you very much for your question.  There is much confusion in the public on this subject .  I feel

l that I am in a very good position to answer this question as I am both a board certified otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon (ENT) and a board certified  plastic surgeon.

Let me explain the differences between a plastic surgeon and a facial plastic surgeon.  

In order to become a plastic surgeon one must complete at least 3 to 5 years of general surgery OR be board certified in another surgical speciality such as opthalmology, otolaryngology (ENT), orthopedic surgery etc.. Having completed this surgical  training there is an additional 2-3 years of study of plastic surgery and then examinations to become a board certified plastic surgeon. 

Facial plastic surgeon are board certified otolaryngologists who spend 1 year of facial plastic surgery training and then have examinations to become board certified facial plastic surgeons.

Both plastic surgeons and facial plastic surgeons are well trained in rhinoplasty surgery.

Now as for your question I would ask your ENT surgeon if he  has experience performing rhinoplasties and ask to see examples of his work.  If you feel comfortable with the surgeon and like his results then by all means proceed with the combined septal and rhinoplasty surgery. 

Donald M. Brown, MD (retired)
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

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