These distinctions have implications for insurance coverage.
Nearly all insurance carriers cover reconstructive procedures for functional restoration, but not those performed purely for cosmetic reasons in general, the classification as cosmetic or reconstructive depends upon the reason that the surgery is performed.
For example, rhinoplasty to change the shape of the nose is considered cosmetic.
However, rhinoplasty to change the shape of the nose following traumatic deformity is reconstructive.
Corrective surgery to remove or minimize the effects of scarring usually provides cosmetic improvement.
Insurance carriers, however, may recognize these procedures as reconstructive in nature because scars are abnormal formations that develop on the body as a result of injury or illness.
Cosmetic surgical techniques originally evolved from reconstructive procedures, and some techniques are the same, whether they are used for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes.
Suction-assisted lipectomy, commonly known as liposuction, is a procedure used to remove lipomas (fatty tumors), defat flaps and remove fatty deposits in various reconstructive procedures, but it has a much wider application as a cosmetic technique to streamline the body by suctioning away localized deposits of unwanted fat.
Many other procedures that today are more widely used to enhance appearance began as solutions to reconstructive problems.
The relationship between the two types of procedures is so close that surgeons well-versed in reconstructive procedures are most likely to also have the background and training required for cosmetic surgery.