Ortho vs. Plastics

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New Member
Jul 15, 2009
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hi folks,

I am really quite confused as to which to go into. I have been doing plastics research since undergrad, and ortho since last year. I love recon work, the artistry and the creativity involved is very appealing to me. What draws me more (slightly) to plastics are the hours and the ability to have a little more control over my life after residency. Though I am a 3rd year, I have quite a lot of experience in both specialties, probably 6 months worth in plastics and about 3 or 4 in orthopaedics. Are there any people out there who were in the same boat? what factors did you employ when making a decision? I am asking this now so that I can act on getting away rotations/research under my belt.

Btw, my first 2 years yielded many honors, a few high passes and 1 pass. My USMLE score 258.

Thanks in advance!



The Most Potent Androgen
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Mar 22, 2009
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I also had to decide between ortho and plastics not too long ago.

This is from a previous post on the NSg forums and is kind of how I made up my mind:

Plastics: I HATE HATE HATE wound care. Wounds smell and the people that get the decubs are just going to keep getting more and more until they die a slow painful death. This is not my idea of fun and seems to be a pretty big part of plastics (at least at my institution). I didn't want to do cosmetics. Im sure its nice, but I just never saw myself as a cosmetic surgeon. Things I liked: Great knowledge of anatomy. Intricate surgeries, especially on the face. Large variety being able to operate on any part of the body. Outcomes are good.

Ortho: Outcomes are great. Trauma is very cool and you put people back together. You get delicate hand surgeries, wide open cases, arthoscopic cases, and fluoro cases. You operate everywhere on the body except for the skull/mandible. Patients are usually healthy which means less BS and what you do really matters to their quality of life. The surgeries are the most fun that I experienced. It is not uncommon for ortho to do split thickness skin grafts and some rotate their own flaps. In the end if you decide you want to do plastics you can do the plastics residency after 5 years of ortho. The patients are usually grateful and you work with the coolest guys (and some girls). I love every specialty in ortho, unlike plastics where I only like face and hand. The cons: No face.

Something to keep in mind: the hours for a plastics residency can be just as brutal as ortho. Also, outside of residency you can have a reasonable amount of control over your lifestyle in both ortho and plastics, so I wouldn't even consider that in choosing your specialty. Go with what you enjoy doing the most. Make sure you love the bread and butter of your specialty because in the end, that will be 90% of what you do. Make sure you do your surgery rotation before december. Rotate through both ortho and plastics and see what is a better fit for you.

Plastics may be more resistant to whatever the public option does to healthcare, but if we end up like Canada or UK, I am sure plenty of people will pay cash for ortho procedures too. Again, I wouldn't pick a career based on this either.