American Board of Plastic Surgery - What You Need to Know

Posted February 07, 2020
Cosmetic Town examines the American Board of Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery has grown in popularity over the past few decades thanks to the rise of social media as well as the fact that many celebrities now openly discuss their plastic surgery procedures with the public. While plastic surgery is very popular, it is not always easy to find the best plastic surgeon to handle the desired procedure which means patients could use some help when it comes to getting more information about their plastic surgeon of choice. One of the most effective, and informative, methods of learning more about plastic surgery and the doctors that perform plastic surgery procedures is by consulting the website of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

American Board of Plastic Surgery up Close

American Board of Plastic SurgeryThe American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) was organized in 1938 and it was a subsidiary of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In 1941, the ABPS was awarded the status of a major specialty board and it is recognized as the sole certifying body for the medical field of plastic and reconstructive surgery by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

According to their website, the mission of the American Board of Plastic Surgery is to “promote safe, ethical, efficacious, plastic surgery to the public by maintaining high standards for the education, examination, certification and continuous certification of plastic surgeons as specialists and subspecialists.”

The ABPS states its purpose with the following points on their website:

  • To establish requirements for the qualifications of applicants who request a certificate of their ability in the field of plastic surgery in its broadest sense
  • To conduct examinations of approved candidates who seek certification by the Board
  • To issue certificates to those who meet the Board’s requirements and pass the respective examinations
  • To do and engage in any and all lawful activities that may be incidental or reasonably related to any of the foregoing purposes
  • To encourage a culture of ethics within plastic surgery, beginning in residency training and extending throughout the professional career of all plastic surgeons

It should be noted that the Board is not considered to be an educational institution so certificates that are issued by the Board are not to be considered degrees by doctors or patients.  In addition, the certificate does not mean a person has a medical licensee or any legal privileges or legal qualifications to practice medicine or the medical specialty of plastic surgery.


American Board of Plastic Surgery Candidates



In order to be board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, candidates must have graduated from an accredited medical school. In addition, the candidate must have completed at least three years of general surgery residency training or have completed a complete residency in urology, neurological surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthopedic surgery and otolaryngology.

Plus, qualified candidates need to have completed plastic surgery residence training that lasted at least two years and both oral and written comprehensive exams from the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

If a medical professional was board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery during, or after, 1995, that diplomate must have their board-certification renewed by taking a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) examination every 10 years to remain board-certified by the ABPS. (Diplomates who were board-certified before 1995 are not required to take a renewal examination every 10 years)

To find out if a plastic surgeon is board-certified by the ABPS, click here.

Plastic Surgery Specialties and Subspecialties that Fall under the American Board of Plastic Surgery

According to the ABPS, a plastic surgeon is a medical professional that “deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structures, hand, extremities, breast and trunk and external genitalia or cosmetic enhancement of these areas of the body.” The ABPS also states that “Cosmetic surgery is an essential component of plastic surgery. The Plastic Surgeon uses cosmetic surgical principles to both improve overall appearance and to optimize the outcome of reconstructive procedures.”

In order to earn a certification in one of the following subspecialties, doctors must receive additional training and assessment as specified by the board:

  • Plastic Surgery within the Head and Neck – A plastic surgeon trained in this subspecialty has additional expertise in plastic and reconstructive procedures related to the head, neck, face and any associated structures. These plastic and reconstructive procedures include such treatments as head and neck cancer and reconstruction, the repair of soft tissue, maxillofacial trauma management and neural surgery. In addition, plastic surgeons trained in this subspecialty will provide all aspects of head, neck and facial aesthetic surgery.
  • Surgery of the Hand – A plastic surgeon that is trained in surgery of the hand has the needed expertise to treat patients with issues related to injuries, diseases and disorders that impact the wrist, hand and forearm. Some of the most common medical, surgical and rehabilitative care treatments related to surgery of the hand include carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries that impact the hand and wrist, trigger fingers, ganglia (lumps) and hand injuries such as dislocations, fractures, lacerated tendons and nerves and arteries. Surgeons that are considered to be “Hand Surgeons” can be general surgeons, plastic surgeons or orthopedic surgeons with additional training in this subspecialty.



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