Plastic Surgery FAQs

To help educate our patients, we have provided some of the most frequently asked questions regarding plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Defining Plastic Surgery

Why the “plastic” in plastic surgery?

The word “plastic” comes from the Greek word plastikos, meaning “to mold or shape.” Many of the first plastic surgeries were developed to close a difficult wound or replace tissue lost due to injury or cancer. These procedures often involved the formation of a skin flap to reshape or mold the defect so as to approximate the original shape.

What is the difference between cosmetic/aesthetic and reconstructive surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is performed to reshape normal structures of the body in order to improve the patient’s appearance and self-esteem. Aesthetic surgery is usually not covered by health insurance because it is elective.

Reconstructive surgery is performed on abnormal structures of the body, caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors or disease. It is generally performed to improve function, but may also be done to approximate a normal appearance. Reconstructive surgery is generally covered by most health insurance policies although coverage for specific procedures and levels of coverage may vary greatly.

There are a number of “gray areas” in coverage for plastic surgery that sometimes require special consideration by an insurance carrier. These areas usually involved surgical operations which may be reconstructive or aesthetic, depending on each patient’s situation. For example, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) – a procedure normally performed to achieve aesthetic improvement may be covered if the eyelids are drooping severely and obscuring a patient’s vision.

What is the difference between a “Cosmetic Surgeon” and a “Plastic Surgeon”?

In today’s increasingly commercialized marketplace with widespread advertising and marketing by physicians (and even non-physicians) claiming specialization and certification, finding the right physician has become a difficult and confusing task. To make matters worse, anyone with a medical license is legally allowed to do just about anything they please in their office, including cosmetic surgery. Any type of specialization or specialty training is voluntary. Choosing a properly trained and specialty certified physician for your needs, however, is the single most important choice you will need to make. Since the physician, and not technological wizardry, will determine your eventual well being (physical and emotional), a thorough search and knowledgeable evaluation of credentials is essential.

The American Board of Medical Specialties has a list of authorized medical specialties. Board certification indicates that a surgeon has passed his or her boards within a specialty. At a minimum, your surgeon should be board certified. However, as important is in what board is he/she certified? Only a true plastic surgeon can say that he/she is board certified in plastic surgery by The American Board of Plastic Surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize “cosmetic surgery” as a medical specialty. Therefore, the term “Board certified cosmetic surgeon” is a very loose term that could include, OB/GYNs, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, oral surgeons, or ENTs, but it is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

The American Board of Plastic Surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize “cosmetic surgery” as a medical specialty.


Look for the American Society of Plastic Surgery and/or American Board of Plastic Surgery logos when picking your provider.

Only a physician who has successfully completed a residency or fellowship recognized by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a real plastic surgeon who is board eligible in the specialty of plastic surgery. A true plastic surgeon will tell you he is a plastic surgeon-either by being board certified in plastic surgery or as a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

You can inquire about a physician’s accredited specialty board status on the American Board of Medical Specialties website or at the American Society of Plastic Surgery “Find a Doctor” website.


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Do the best cosmetic surgeons only do cosmetic surgery?

Certainly, older cosmetic surgeons may limit their practice to cosmetic surgery, but almost all of the world’s best cosmetic surgeons began with reconstructive practices. In fact, almost all of the groundbreaking techniques in cosmetic surgery have reconstructive origins. In reconstructive cases the patients’ problems are typically greater requiring more advanced and difficult techniques. However, as the surgeon achieves comfort and predictability with these advanced reconstructive techniques, they become powerful tools that can be adapted to the cosmetic patient. If a surgeon only performs cosmetic surgery, it is difficult, if not imprudent, to experiment with these advanced techniques in the cosmetic patient. A smaller repertoire of techniques will likely result in an improvement for most patients, but a surgeon well-versed in a multitude of advanced techniques has a much higher likelihood of safely achieving a spectacular result. The reconstructive challenges that Dr. Baker faces have give him experience and confidence in techniques that are difficult to develop when treating only cosmetic patients. The numerous complex reconstructive patients Dr. Baker sees have provided him the expertise to safely employ these complex techniques in his cosmetic patients.


Where does Dr. Baker perform surgery?

Dr. Baker performs the majority of his adult surgery at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC. He performs most of his craniofacial surgery at The Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children in Falls Church, Virginia. Both hospitals are consistently listed among the best in the region by US News and World Report.

I live outside of the Washington DC area. Is it hard to schedule an appointment and coordinate surgery?

If you are coming from outside the Washington DC Metropolitan area or the United States, you may contact our office via phone or email to arrange an appointment. If you are unsure whether you would be a candidate for an evaluation, we are happy to review your records and photos prior to your visit in order to ensure you are a candidate for an evaluation with Dr. Baker. Our McLean office provides a discrete location away from DC traffic for privacy.

How can I get in touch with Dr Baker after I have surgery?

You can call our office between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM. Under “Contact Dr. Baker” there is an email link that will go directly to our office.

What if I am coming from overseas?

Patients outside of the U.S may contact our office through email or by phone. Given time zone differences, email is frequently preferred. Images and records can be emailed prior to your arrival. Any correspondence with your local physicians can also be sent via email.

Can you give me a predicted result?

Although we have no method of exactly predicting your surgical result, we do use digital images and computer software to generate images of what we believe to be your desired result. Our practice employs the latest technology to photograph patients in both 2-D and 3-D to assist in developing the best treatment plan. Dr. Baker feels these are very important to make sure that he accurately understands your treatment goals.

Does Dr. Baker have residents helping during surgery?

Any surgeon is better able to perform surgery with good assistance, and every hospital provides someone to assist the surgeon in the operating room. In private hospitals, assisting is done by nurses or physician assistants who cover many surgeons and specialties. The complexity of the plastic surgery Dr. Baker performs at Georgetown University Hospital requires a sophisticated degree of assisting. By having a senior plastic surgery resident (who is 1-3 years from being a board eligible plastic surgeon) assisting him, he has someone who knows plastic surgery the way he performs it and knows it very well. Aside from actually having one of his partners assist him, this is the best assistance available-a skilled plastic surgical resident who understands nuances of complex plastic surgery.

Do you have overnight arrangements for Washington DC plastic surgery patients who do not need a hospital overnight stay?

There are hotels near Georgetown University Hospital, some offer a discount rate for patients who are having surgery.

Click here for further information

I am a new patient. Can I fill out forms in advance?

Please see the following link for new patient forms: click here.


What is recovery from plastic surgery like?

Each patient will tolerate pain post-operatively in a different way, and we consider this. While some patients may describe the pain as an ache, others experience greater discomfort. Appropriate pain medications are prescribed for the post-operative patients, and these help minimize discomfort. Most facial cosmetic operations have minimal discomfort post- operatively.

How long is the recuperative period and when can I return to work?

The length of time it takes to recuperate after plastic surgery varies depending on the procedure performed and the person operated on. Most patients will require assistance for the first two days. Then most patients are able to care for themselves, but may still need assistance if they have small children to care for.

When can I resume regular exercise?

The time a patient resumes regular exercises varies based on the operation performed. All patients are encouraged to start a slow walking routine on the second postoperative day. Regular aerobic and more vigorous activities are not allowed during the first 2 weeks in order to decrease the risks of bleeding, swelling, and bruising. Weight lifting and contact sports are allowed at 1 month in most cases.

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