Choosing A Cosmetic Surgeon Tips

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What questions should I ask a cosmetic surgeon?

Plastic Surgeon Checklist

The doctor has just asked you so many questions you feel like you did on that first date when your girlfriend's parents grilled you about your grades, your younger bro who had that stinkbomb incident in school, your college plans and even your shoe size. Unlike that first-date interview, you can actually turn the question tables on your plastic surgeon. Some questions to ask:

  1. Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
  2. What other certifications do you have--American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, and so forth?
  3. Do you have hospital privileges in an accredited board-approved hospital to perform this surgery?
  4. Is your office accredited if you perform my surgery there?
  5. Do you have training in new surgical techniques?
  6. Do you serve on the board of any professional associations in your field?
  7. What awards have you won?
  8. How many gynecomastia surgeries, tummy tucks, etc, have you performed?
  9. What complications have arisen from these surgeries? What are the risks involved?
  10. May I see before and after photos?
  11. What is the expected recovery time and will my activities be restricted before and after surgery?
  12. Will my surgery require a hospital stay?
  13. What is your policy if I need corrections and what are the costs?
  14. How much does the procedure cost and do you offer financing?
  15. Can I tour the facility where my procedure will be performed?

If you are considering more than one cosmetic surgeon, ask these questions of every prospective candidate. Relax. You're married to your first date, thirty years later, so this grilling session will turn out just fine.

Should I find a specialist in face lifts or abdominoplasty?

Plastic Surgery Specialists

I can get a facelift from any plastic surgeon, you think, just like I can get a good burrito from a burger chain. Wrong. With HMOs, insurance companies and health care bureaucracies, it's more difficult to get approval to see a specialist, but if you need to repair a blocked artery, you don't go to a general practitioner--you change your diet and you go to a cardiologist.

If you want facial plastic surgery, when you're choosing a cosmetic surgeon, you'll have better results if you choose a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in facial plastic and cosmetic surgery. That's your plastic surgeon's expertise. While you can choose someone who juggles breast implants, butt lifts and blepharoplasty, there's something to be said for focus. Make sure that the board certified plastic surgeon you select has specialized training in the specific procedures you select.

Several surgeons, for example, say, "Facial surgery only." Check the plastic surgeon's education and training. Has she completed courses and training in facial plastic surgery, such as jaw surgery and rhinoplasty, not to mention face lifts? If she has, she's the surgeon for you. So while you're waiting to see that cardiologist because of eating one too many burritos from burger chains, skip through the plastic surgery directory to "facelifts" or "facial plastic surgery."

What does it mean if a plastic surgeon is board certified?

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Are you thinking about responding to that ad in the local paper for liposuction? Better not, unless the ad mentions the golden phrase, "board certified plastic surgeon," and mentions that the cosmetic surgeon has the approval of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the major accountability organization for plastic surgeons and their patients.

What does it mean if a plastic surgeon is board certified? It usually means:

  • The plastic surgeon has finished a specialized post-graduate training course of five to seven years, plus a general surgery background course or a course in ENT or orthopedics
  • The cosmetic surgeon did the two to three final years of training in an approved plastic surgery center
  • The physician/cosmetic surgeon candidate passed rigorous written and oral exams

Be warned, though: Board certification does NOT mean that:
  • Your cosmetic surgeon won't ever commit malpractice
  • A dissatisfied patient with unrealistic expectations won't sue * you absolutely won't experience complications--they happen
  • If nature takes over in several years, your plastic surgeon was incompetent
  • All board certified plastic surgeons are equal in experience, patient history, skill and training
  • Your skin will heal quickly--you do have a tendency toward breakouts and dry skin plus other genetic factors
  • You'll instantly look like a movie star--again, realistic expectations!
  • You won't have an allergic reaction--though your cosmetic surgeon will typically pretest you if you're having a chemical peel or other skin treatment, plus ask you if you have allergies to any injections

What board certification means for you is that your board certified plastic surgeon knows what he or she is doing, and that you can typically check to see if there are any disciplinary actions or suspensions on file. Databases vary from state to state, so contact the American Board of Plastic Surgery when choosing a plastic surgeon. And if the ad doesn't say "board certified plastic surgeon," ask when you schedule a consultation appointment. Who knows--the newspaper could have made an omission (it's been known to happen!)

How important is bedside manner in a plastic surgeon?

Paging Dr. Welby

He's all smiles, but is that because he cares about you or because he gave himself lip injections? While Patch Adams may have cured patients with humor and understanding, you don't want the Joker as played by Jack Nicholson for a plastic surgeon. You want to be treated with courtesy and respect, but your cosmetic surgeon is not meant to be your therapist or your best friend.

You're choosing a cosmetic surgeon who can perform the best procedure, who puts your interests first. Usually, that means canning the chatter and the golf stories in favor of telling you that you don't need breast enlargement because Pam Anderson would even say it's too much. We've known surgeons who don't make chitchat with patients, but who are absolutely straightforward in assessing the benefits, risks and costs of plastic surgery. If you do find a personable cosmetic surgeon who doesn't make you feel like just another number, great. But we rate other facts higher than the ability to make you smile:

  • Does the cosmetic surgeon run over with surgical appointments because she's determined to get the procedure right the first time?
  • Does he keep you waiting because she's still explaining to that teenager and her parents why she doesn't need liposuction?
  • Has she answered all your questions and do you feel comfortable with the procedure itself?
  • Is he willing to tell you that you don't need a tummy tuck and to suggest alternatives?
  • Is she efficient and professional?

This isn't to say that plastic surgeons should be rude, or try to hustle you into procedures you don't want, or treat you condescendingly. But if you want to spend time listening to a plastic surgeon talk, watch "Dr. 90210" or "Nip/Tuck." Then have your cosmetic surgeon spend less time talking so she can concentrate on what you're paying her to do--namely, make you look and feel fabulous.

If I have a grievance against a plastic surgeon, can I appeal it?

Board Certification Grievances

Your chances of having a grievance against your plastic surgeon are as good as your chances of dying in a plane crash. Thousands of men and women have plastic surgery every day, and millions of people fly worldwide despite long lines and security checkpoints. However, if the unthinkable happens and you do need to file a grievance against your board certified plastic surgeon, do your homework in advance. Check your state's medical licensing board at or the licensing board in the country where you live. Also, ask your board certified plastic surgeon whether or not the surgery center where she practices is accredited by The American Association for Accreditation For Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) or Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). Ask the staff what policies exist for filoing grievances.

Do your research on your cosmetic surgeon. Do grievances and lawsuits exist, and what is the status? Bear in mind that many grievances and lawsuits are brought because the patient had unrealistic expectations. Make sure you document your dealings with the cosmetic surgeon and make notes after each visit. Request copies of your files and your before and after photos. You'll probably never need to use this information, but it's helpful for your medical records. After all, should you survive a plane crash and need your face reconstructed, it's helpful to have peace of mind.

Does my board certified plastic surgeon have skill in dermatology?

Board Certified...Skin Doctor?

Just because your gym has a weight room, that doesn't mean it doesn't have aerobics classes. It's all part of health. Similarly, your board certified plastic surgeon usually has a background in dermatologic procedures. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, it's mandatory for your board certified plastic surgeon to have extensive skill in:

  1. Burn managements, acute and reconstructive.
  2. Microsurgical techniques applicable to plastic surgery (skin resurfacing, peels microdermabrasion).
  3. Reconstruction by tissue transfer including flaps and grafts.
  4. Surgery of benign and malignant lesions of the skin and soft tissue.

To use the gym analogy, even if you're going in for ab work, you can still benefit from strength training. For example, you'll be happy for that board certification if the cosmetic surgeon needs to remove skin flaps or graft them onto your cheeks. Your cosmetic surgeon might discover a lesion your doctor overlooked that needs removal--and you thought it was just extra fat! Besides, cardiovascular exercise is wonderful for your heart and abs, and your gym wouldn't be much of a gym if it didn't provide the whole fitness package. When choosing a plastic surgeon with board certification, you can be confident you're getting the whole deal.

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