Not all surgeons are created equal. You may not be aware of the fact that any licensed medical doctor can perform plastic surgery. Consumer beware! There are only a handful of specialties that incorporate cosmetic surgery training as part of their curriculum in their residency programs. These being - Plastic Surgery, Head and Neck Surgery (ENT), Ophthalmology and Dermatology. With the recent popularity of Med Spas advertising cosmetic surgery procedures (many at a discounted rate), prospective patients need to proceed with caution. It is important to ask "Who will be performing my cosmetic surgery procedure and what are their qualifications"? The fact that a surgeon has been featured in the media, on a television talk show or mentioned in a magazine, is no indication that they are a skilled and meticulous surgeon. Hiring a public relation firm to "boast about one's credentials" does not equate with one's abilities as a surgeon. At a minimum, your selection criteria for evaluating a prospective surgeon for your cosmetic surgery procedure should include:
• Graduation from a recognized Medical School.
• Completion of an ACGME (Accredited Council for Graduate Medical Education) accredited residency in Plastic Surgery or cosmetic surgery.
• Licensure as a physician and surgeon in the state in which you are considering having your cosmetic
A Fellowship in Plastic Surgery is an elite qualification that only a small percentage of surgeons preforming plastic surgery can claim. A surgeon who has had additional fellowship training in plastic surgery has completed specialized training in a particular area of interest (Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Craniofacial Plastic Surgery, Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, Breast Surgery and Breast Reconstruction, Microsurgery, Hand Surgery, etc,), usually under the tutelage of a talented, well-known and respected surgeon or group of surgeons in the field. Acceptance into a fellowship is very competitive. These fellowships typically last from several months to 2 years. Fellowship training further emphasizes the surgeon's interest, commitment and experience in a particular area of plastic surgery and enhances his/her credentials.
Board Certification / Board Eligibility
It is important to inquire as to whether your surgeon is board certified or board eligible. Keep in mind that while passing an exam and obtaining board certification is a prestigious credential, it is in no way a guarantee that your surgeon possesses the artistic ability and meticulous surgical skills required to perform a particular cosmetic surgery procedure. Although important, Board Certification should not be your sole criteria for choosing a surgeon. The fact that a surgeon is not board certified should not mean that you automatically overlook someone who may be otherwise a very qualified surgeon. If your surgeon is not board certified, ask the specific reason why and whether they are in the process of becoming Board Certified. What is more important, is that your surgeon has had the requisite training, qualifications and expertise to perform the particular cosmetic surgery procedure that you are interested in and that they are practicing within the scope of their training and experience.
Society Membership in any one of a number of cosmetic surgery societies is strictly voluntary and not manditory. Some surgeons choose not to be a member. Membership in these various societies is in no way an assurance that your surgeon possesses the required surgical skills and expertise required for the particular procedure you are interested in.
Guidelines for Selecting a Surgeon
• Prior to your consultation, it is a good idea to search the internet for information about the surgeon you are considering. Although you may have read an article in a magazine that Dr. "such-and-such" is the "best," information on the internet or on internet "blogs" may tell a different story. Surgeons pay a high price for a good publicist and for catchy advertisements which may be misleading. Running a check through Health Grades or contacting the local medical board can oftentimes uncover information on the surgeon regarding previous complaints, pending malpractice cases and/or settled lawsuits.
• Your best referral is from a former patient. Prior to your consultaiton, ask to speak directly with one of the surgeon's former patients who has had the same procedure you are interested in. Other excellent referral sources include medical personnel who may work with and / or know the surgeon.
• Your best referral is from a former patient. Prior to your consultaiton, ask to speak
directly with one of the surgeon's former patients who has had the same procedure
you are interested in. Other excellent referral sources include medical personnel who
may work with and / or know the surgeon.
• When you arrive for your consultation, evaluate the following: How were you intially
greeted? Was the Receptionist pleasant? Did you have to wait to see the surgeon? Was the surgeon "presentable" when you met with them?
• In order to derive mazimum benefit from your consultation, have a list of questions
with you at the time of your consultation. Knowing which questions to ask and how to
ask follow-up questions is the first step. Place your initial emphasis on asking
questions about the surgeon's training, qualifications, certifications and experience.
Then ask about the particular cosmetic procedure that you are interested in, including
risks, benefits and alternatives.
• Follow up these general questions with a request to see pre / post-op photographs of
the procedure you are interested in. The surgeon should have a "before and after"
album for you to view.
• Request to see testimonials from patients who have had a favourable experience with
this particular surgeon. Make certain it was for the same procedure you are interested
in. These testimonials can often be found on the surgeon's website.
• It is also important to ask where your surgery will take place. If your surgery is going
to be performed in your surgeon's office, make sure that your surgeon's facility is
accredited. There are three accrediting bodies: The American Association for
Ambulatory Plastic Surgery Facilities (AAAAPS); The Accreditation Association
for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC); and The Joint Commission on Accreditation of
Healthcare Organization (JCAHA).
• It is important that you ask whether your surgeon has admitting privileges at a
nearby hospital. Privileges at a local hospital are granted to a physician only after that facility has certified the training and experience of the physician. This provides an
additional screening mechanism that your surgeon is adequately trainined and
credentialed. In the majority of cases, your surgery will take place in an office setting
or ambulatory surgery center. However, in the event of an untoward emergency or
complication, you may need to be transferred to a local hospital for further treatment or
care. In this situation, hospital provileges by your surgeon are critical.
• Equally as important, is to inquire about who your Anesthesia Provider will be. Not all
plastic surgeons use certified anesthesiologists as their anesthesia providers. Some
will use non-certified anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists. There is a marked
difference. Anesthesiologists are fully licensed doctors who have chosen to specialize
in the area of anesthesia, who have completed a 4-year anesthesia residency following
medical school. In contrast, licensed nurse anesthetists obtain a bachelor's degree in
nursing and then complete a two to three year nurse anesthetist training program,
including a mandatory year of expereince as a critical care nurse. While nurse
anesthetists may have successfully admnistered anesthesia hundreds or thousands of
times, it is important to realize that they are not doctors. In addition to administering
anesthesia, anesthesia providers must be prepared to deal with complex physiological
issues and anticipate untoward reactions in the event of an emergency.
• One of the most important considerations in selecting the right surgeon is whether
there is a positive connection between you and the surgeon. In addition to
your decision based on training and qualifications, patients are seeking a surgeon with
whom they can communicate clearly and develope a trusting relationship; One the
patient believes can provide the highest quality surgical result.
• Following your consultation, it is important to ask yourself: Did the surgeon spend an
adequate amount of time with me? Did you feel that you had an open and honest
discussion with your surgeon? Did he / she answer all of your questions in easy to
understand language? Did you fully understand all of the risks, benefits, alternatives
and complications of the procedure you are interested in? Answering positively to
these questions is a good start in selecting the right surgeon for you.
Lastly, don't rush the process of selecting a surgeon. Most cosmetic procedures are elective, so take your time. Meet with a number of qualified surgeons. If you narrow your choices down to a few, request to meet with those few for a second consultation or as many times as necessary for you to feel comfortable with your decision. In the end, it is a personal decision...take your time. Ultimately, you should feel comfortable not only with the surgeon you choose, but with your decision to undergo cosmetic surgery, as well.