Preparing for Your Plastic Surgery Consultation
Once you’ve decided to schedule a consultation with a plastic surgeon, you should make the most of the time beforehand by doing some research to familiarize yourself with the procedures that you are interested in. I find that the consultations I have with patients who are already well informed are much more helpful to both the patient and myself. Of course, if the patient has already had a consultation with another plastic surgeon, this will serve to have educated the patient too. I’ll go through some broad things to consider, and provide some resources for further study.
1) Review the procedure you are considering. Use the Internet. This may seem obvious, since that is what you’re doing right now! However, I find that although the younger patient who is looking into breast augmentation or rhinoplasty routinely uses the Internet, the older patient considering a facelift does not do much on-line research. It is so easy to get information via the Internet that years ago was difficult to obtain or simply unavailable. Granted, the Internet is also full of misinformation, so consider the source when investigating a procedure. In addition to RealSelf, the websites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery have good basic procedure information, presented without hype or exaggeration.
2) Understand the limitations of the procedure you are considering. You’d like to avoid the long scar of a full tummy tuck, but are you really a candidate for a mini-tummy tuck? Be honest with yourself. Know that if you have some sag to your breasts that doing a breast augmentation without a breast lift can look bad. You want some filler in your smile lines, but in the mirror you love the way your cheeks look when you pull them up a bit. Is a filler like Juvederm going to give you what you want, or do you need a facelift?
3) Consider how you will pay for the procedure. Do you have any idea what it will cost? You can get an idea by looking at data on the websites I mentioned, but most offices will give you a ballpark if you ask (some even have representative prices posted on their website). They will be hesitant to give you an exact amount because they won’t really know what you need until your consult. For example, in my office I have three different prices for breast lift, depending on what type of lift is indicated. If you think you may need credit, apply for credit in advance. This will streamline the process, and if denied, you can consider other options or delay surgery until your finances improve. Carecredit is a great resource that specializes in cosmetic surgery financing and the on-line credit application process is easy. Be careful not to price shop for plastic surgery. You may save a buck (at least in the short run) finding a surgeon who was not formally trained in a plastic surgery residency, or who is not a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, or who operates in a facility that doesn’t meet accreditation guidelines. Some lower costs by administering their own anesthesia while they do surgery! If you live in or near a big city, your weekly arts and events magazine probably lists several practices with garish ads and low teaser prices. If you really are looking for the cheapest deal, you probably should consider delaying the procedure until your finances improve.
4) Know the surgeon’s qualifications. Again, the Internet has the answers, although brochures and advertisements may list some key memberships which distinguish your surgeon. Look at their website for board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is an even more exclusive group whose members must have a significant amount of aesthetic surgical experience to join. Members of these groups must also maintain ethical standards and operate in facilities that meet strict guidelines. You can contact your state medical board or visit their website to check on sanctions or other information related to lawsuits or complaints.
One more thing… bring your significant other or a friend. It will help you to have a supportive spouse or friend involved with your decision and informed about your procedure, especially when they will be taking care of you afterwards.
Douglas J. Mackenzie, M.D., F.A.C.S., Santa Barbara, California
(Adapted and edited from an original post on my website’s blog)