What You Should Know About Your "Cosmetic" Surgeon

Michael C. Edwards, MD, FACS
Article by
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon

With the barrage of plastic surgery reality shows now on television, more and more people are treating themselves to body-enhancing procedures that they might not have considered in years gone by. These deceptive television programs promising total makeovers often give the impression that deciding to have cosmetic surgery is as simple as buying a new shade of lipstick.

It is important to realize that undergoing surgery is a serious commitment and selecting the right plastic surgeon and facility are your responsibility as the consumer (1). You must do your homework when making such an important decision.

In many states, in our case Nevada, any licensed physician may advertise/perform cosmetic surgery without being board-certified in a specialty indicating proper credentials, let alone have any formal training in surgery.

Just because a doctor advertises that they are "board-certified" does not mean he or she is certified by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Therefore, a cosmetic surgeon is not the same as a plastic surgeon.

What should you research?

Board Certification: There are 24 boards recognized by the ABMS as legitimate boards. Certification by an ABMS-recognized board that is appropriate to your procedure(s) ensures your surgeon has had an appropriate depth of training to properly care for you.

Boards to look for are the:

  • American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certification ensuring in-depth plastic surgical training of all areas of the body
  • American Board of Otolaryngology for facial procedures
  • American Board of Ophthalmology for cosmetic eye procedures
  • American Board of Dermatology.

Examples of boards NOT recognized by the ABMS are the:

  • American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
  • American Board of Laser Medicine and Surgery
  • American Board of Liposuction Surgery

You can verify the legitimacy of a stated board by contacting the American Board of Medical Specialties at 866-275-2267 or online at the ABMS website.

Hospital Privileges: Regardless of where the surgery is to be performed, the surgeon should have privileges to perform the procedure in an hospital. Ask your surgeon or the professional staff office at the hospital where he or she is credentialed to verify staff privileges.

Just because a procedure is performed in the doctor’s office, proper credentialing at a hospital are a must. This ensures to you that the provider’s credentials and training have been reviewed by appropriate peers.

Surgical Facility Accreditation: Facilities should be accredited by a recognized accrediting body, be state licensed or Medicare-certified. You can check this by contacting any of the following organizations:

  • AAAASF: 1-847-949-6058 or website
  • AAAHC: 1-847-853-6060 or website
  • JCAHO: 1-630-792-5000 or website

If a procedure is performed in the doctor’s office, ask if their facility is approved which means they have passed and maintain stringent rules to provide a safe environment for you to have a procedure.

Surgeon's Experience: Speak with your surgeon about his or her breadth of experience in the procedure(s) you are considering. Membership in professional societies, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) or American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) are also key indicators.

Membership in either society means a surgeon is ABPS-certified (Plastic Surgery Board Certified) and has significant experience in cosmetic surgery of the face and body.

Details of Your Surgery: To be discussed before surgery: your complete medical history including past and current medications, underlying medical conditions that could affect how you respond to surgery or anesthesia; surgical benefits, risks, and alternatives; total cost including surgeon fees, anesthesia, facility, supplies (implants) and other; surgeon's policy on revisionary procedures; post-surgical care and typical timeline for resuming work/social activities.

Adapted from an ASAPS press release, “What You Need to Know Before Surgery;” There are many highly qualified, well-trained plastic surgeons in the Las Vegas Valley. You owe it to yourself to do your research and make a well-informed decision before going under the knife.

1. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery press release, “How to Find the “Right” Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon