Background Objective measures of research productivity depend on how frequently a publication is cited. Metrics such as the Hirsch index (h-index; total number of publications h that have at least h citations) allow for an objective measurement of the scientific impact of an author's publications. Objectives The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the h-index among aesthetic plastic surgery fellowship directors to that of fellowship directors in craniofacial surgery and microsurgery. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study of all fellowship directors in aesthetic surgery, craniofacial surgery, and microsurgery in the United States and Canada. The gathered data were categorized as bibliometric (h-index, i10-index, total number of publications, total number of citations, maximum citations for a single work, and number of self-citations) and demographic (gender, training background). Descriptive statistics were computed. Results The sample was composed of 30 aesthetic surgeons (93% male), 33 craniofacial surgeons (97% male), and 32 microsurgeons (94% male). The mean h-index was 13.7 for aesthetics, 16.9 for craniofacial, and 12.4 for microsurgery. There were no significant differences for any of the bibliometric measures between the three subspecialties, despite the fact that academic rank and years in practice were significantly different. Conclusions As measured by the h-index, there is a high level of academic productivity among fellowship directors, regardless of subspecialty area. Unlike other plastic surgery subspecialties however, the h-index of aesthetic plastic surgeons is not correlated to academic rank, revealing a discrepancy between perceptions of aesthetic plastic surgery and its actual academic impact.
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