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For a Facelift, is an ABFPRS or ABPS Surgeon Preferred?

While I know it does not boil down to ABFPRS or ABPS alone, I would like to know which might be the better indicator in choosing a facelift surgeon. The problem is I don't know anyone personally who has had a facelift, so I need to use other criteria in making my selection.

Doctor Answers 15


You actually probably do know pwoplw who have had facelifts. They just look great, and natural. 

The following are a few things that can distinguish some surgeons from others
1) Graduating from a top tier medical school at the top of their class.
2) Membership in Alpha Omega Alpha. This is the medical honors society. Alpha Omega Alpha is to medicine what Phi Beta Kappa is to undergraduate universities
3) Formal surgical training from prestigious medical universities. The minimum number of years of surgical training for plastic surgeons to be bord certified in five years. Some physicians have as many as ten years of formal surgical training. There simply is no substitute for stelar academic and practical surgical training.

4) Very experienced surgeons with meticulous surgical technique and natural looking outcomes will have photgraphic evidence of their work. Patients should be able to view many photos of the surgery of interest, photgraphed from three different perspectives all with similar lighting, distance from the camera and cropping

The elite experience extends beyond the surgeon to the facility, and the surgical team. You should be able to see the surgical theater and know who else will be in the OR with you during surgery. The Joint Commission (JCAHO) is an organization that provides certification to hospital OR's. The Joint Commission and AAAASF are two of the organizations that can provide certification to surgical suites. Some plastic surgeons elect to have their surgery centers dually certified.

The anesthesia experience is critical to a safe and comfortable surgical experience. A board certified anesthesiologist can administer general or MAC anesthesia. My preference is to have a board-certified anesthesiologist at the bedside of my patients for the duration of surgery.

Plastic surgeons who cater to high profile individuals who place a high value on privacy will have a private first floor entrance and exit so patients never need to be in a public lobby or elevator for pre-operative or post operative visits.

It takes just a few mouse clicks to verify a surgeon's credentials online. Make sure that the surgeon or surgeons that you are considering are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and are active members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). ASPS members are also eligible for membership in the exclusive American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), the premier professional association of board-certified plastic surgeons with a specialty practice in cosmetic surgery

Selecting a plastic surgeon should always start with board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, but it doesn't end there.
Choosing Your Surgeon
There is endless information about plastic surgery available online, some of it helpful, some of it hogwash. Many patients learn about treatment options and narrow their search for a plastic surgeon with the help of their computer. And then they make one or two or more appointments, and on the basis of these encounters decide on a surgeon. Some patients already have a particular plastic surgeon in mind, based on the recommendation of satisfied patients or the surgeon's reputation.
Regardless of how you decide who you see, ask yourself the following questions after your consultation appointment(s):
Is this surgeon qualified to perform the surgery I am considering?
Do I like this person? Will I enjoy seeing them over the course of my surgery and recovery?
Was my complete medical history taken and examined in detail?
Did this physician truly listen to me as I explained my thoughts about the improvement I am seeking?
Does this physician share my aesthetic sensibility? Do they understand me and are they able to provide exactly what I am looking for?
Was I provided with a thorough understanding of all options available (both surgical and non-surgical)?
Was I shown photographic examples of surgical outcomes that give me confidence?
Was the office staff professional, friendly and accommodating?
Was I pressured in any way to proceed with surgery?
Does this surgeon perform aesthetic surgery exclusively or is aesthetic surgery a small percentage of the pratice?

Listen to what your heart and your gut tell you when you are evaluating your consultation experience. Only move forward if you can do so with confidence about the experience you expect to have in a given plastic surgery practice, and about your ultimate outcome as a surgical patient.
Your experience with the consultation process is a good indication of what you are likely to receive as a surgical patient in any practice. If the process is well-organized and enjoyable, the staff is respectful and efficient, and the physician takes adequate time to understand your individual needs and communicates effectively, then you have a very high likelihood of being treated in a similar fashion if you become a surgical patient of that practice. If the process is disorganized or rushed, if the staff is discourteous or unprofessional, or if the physician does not give you confidence that your needs will be met, then don't expect things to get any better once you are a surgical patient.
You must be absolutely certain that your plastic surgeon's aesthetic sensibility matches your aesthetic goals. I have a very particular aesthetic vision, and I do not pretend to be the plastic surgeon for everybody. I strive to produce surgical results that are natural-appearing, results that do not advertise a trip to the operating room. For example, I do not perform breast augmentation for patients that are seeking an overly large and distinctly `done' breast appearance. And I have a particular distaste for cheek implants, as I think they rarely produce natural-appearing cheek contours, and instead prefer to enhance facial volume by means of structural fat grafting. Make sure that your plastic surgeon's philosophy and preferred approaches are consistent with the goals that you have in mind.
Adequate communication is obviously invaluable, and you should be able to communicate clearly and easily not only with your doctor, but also with your doctor's staff. Over the course of preparing for and recovering from aesthetic surgery, your doctor's staff will have an important and active role. Make sure that your interaction with the staff gives you confidence that you will receive the care and attention that you expect, and deserve, postoperatively.

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

Facial Plastic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon

    A facial plastic surgeon is an ENT with additional training in facial plastic surgery.   A plastic surgeon has been trained in this as a part of plastic surgery residency and/or fellowship.  There are some plastic surgeons who have been further trained in aesthetic facial surgery.  Training at multiple top level institutions is a good indicator.

How to Find the Best Facelift Surgeon

Both ABPS (requires the longest training) and ABFPRS are a start and important in choosing the best plastic surgeon. The most critical decision to be made in achieving the best plastic surgical result is picking the most experienced and talented, that is the best, plastic surgeon possible. Too often, patients choose a physician based on a catchy ad, the brand name of a technique, the basis of one or two before and after photos, or their web site’s search engine ranking. These criteria will not find the most experienced and talented plastic surgeon.

My Background

Dr. Larry Nichter
I have been a practicing plastic surgeon for more than 25 years, having trained scores of plastic surgeons as a tenured professor of plastic surgery at USC, and I have had a private practice in Orange County since 1993. Speaking from all this experience, here is my advice and the criteria I would use to find the best plastic surgeon in Orange County, Los Angeles, California, or anywhere in the United States. These are the criteria I would use to select a plastic surgeon for my friends, my family, or myself.

First, I want to stress some general observations I have found to be true over the years.

Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware
The longer a surgeon trains at his craft, the finer his skills and the better his judgment become. Board certification in Plastic Surgery (see below) is a bare minimum. Board certification in an additional surgical field recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, or for that matter “triple-board certified,” attests to a doctor’s advanced training and skill and judgment. It also means that they have attained Chief Resident Status in more than one field during their training which means they essentially ran a large departmental service and had senior decision-making and independent operating responsibilities. It is this step that is most maturing for a surgeon.

The institution where the surgeon trained is also important. More renowned schools usually attract the best faculty.

You can use the internet to research the background of a prospective plastic surgeon quickly. Please do this prior to making an appointment. “Just because you wear a baseball cap it doesn’t mean you are a good ball player.” The same applies to anyone wearing a white coat—it doesn’t make you a plastic surgeon, much less a great one.

Caveat Emptor in Latin means “Buyer Beware.” In most states, including California, any physician with a medical school diploma and state license is viewed as a doctor and a surgeon—even without any formal surgical training. In some cases even doctors who have completed only the minimal requirements (medical school, licensing examination, and a one-year internship that need not include surgical training) are touting themselves as “cosmetic surgical experts.” They make these claims of expertise despite the fact that they are only formally trained as family practitioners, OB/Gyns, emergency physicians, dermatologists, or ear-nose-throat specialists. Even physician assistants and nurses have made such claims.

7-Step Process for Finding the Best Plastic Surgeon
The following are my screening guidelines and criteria for picking the best plastic/cosmetic surgeon.

1. Board Certified Plastic Surgeon by the American Board of Plastic Surgery
The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only certifying board in Plastic Surgery that is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties. Use these links to look up a prospective surgeon’s status.

To become a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery requires a minimum of five years of surgical training with a minimum of two years of training specifically in plastic surgery. Then the applicant must also pass a comprehensive written board exam. If successful, the candidate must present his/her clinical cases for critical review by board examiners (I was one such board examiner) and if accepted will take a series of oral examinations.

Since the 1990s, the American Board of Plastic Surgery Certification is only valid for ten years. To retain your board certified status, a plastic surgeon must complete a Maintenance of Certification including written testing and case review. This means that all who pass are trained and experienced in all plastic surgery procedures including facial procedures, breast, and body; essentially all cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.

If a Plastic Surgeon is additionally board certified by another surgical specialty recognized the American Board of Medical Specialties, then this also marks additional expertise and training at the highest level. The American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery (ABFRS) is not a licensing body nor an educational institution and the certificates it issues are not legal licenses to practice facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. The ABFRS is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (although it does note additional specialty training/interest in facial aesthetic surgery).

Likewise, beware of physicians armed only with certification from other non-ABMS recognized boards or special society memberships other than those I have recommended (eg. “Cosmetic Surgery Board,” “Lipoplasty Society of North America,” etc.).

2. Fellow of the American College of Surgeons: FACS
The American College of Surgeons is dedicated to improving the care of the patient and to safeguarding standards of care in an optimal and ethical practice environment. Members of the American College of Surgeons are referred to as “Fellows.” The letters FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon’s name mean that the surgeon’s education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College.

To be a member you have to:

be board certified in a surgical specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties
be in practice in one location for a number of years, with a background check, nomination, and interviews which verify that you are an ethical and safe surgeon among other criteria.
Hint: Look for the “FACS” (or “FRCS,” see below) after the “MD” in a doctor’s title or in his/her Curriculum Vitae to see if he/she is a “real surgeon.”

Note for patients in Canada: The equivalent of FACS in Canada is the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, FRCS.

3. Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of plastic surgeons in the United States and one of the largest in the world. ASPS members are uniquely qualified because of the society’s membership requirements:

Members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons must be Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery complete at least 5 years of surgical training with a minimum of 2 years of training specifically in plastic surgery. The more years of Plastic Surgical Training the better – this includes fellowships in a plastic surgical field.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons members are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and must fulfill rigorous Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements including patient safety issues.
Lastly, ASPS members are required to operate at accredited surgical facilities certified by one of the following USA organizations: American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, Inc., Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc., or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.
Beware of physicians without this membership but belonging only to similar-sounding societies as their claim to excellence eg. “American Society of Cosmetic Surgery,” “Lipoplasty Society of North America,” etc.

4. Member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)
This is the most elite society in the United States and perhaps the world for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. To be a member means that your career is focused in cosmetic surgery at the highest level. Among the requirements for invitation and election to ASAPS membership, a plastic surgeon must:

Be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (or in plastic surgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada);
Be in at least the third year of active practice following board certification;
Participate in accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) to stay current with developments in the field of cosmetic plastic surgery and patient safety;
Document the performance of a significant number and variety of cosmetic surgical cases to demonstrate wide experience;
Be sponsored by two ASAPS-member plastic surgeons to help ensure that the applicant’s professional reputation meets the high standards required by ASAPS;
Adhere to current ethical standards for professional conduct as outlined in the Code of Ethics observed by all ASAPS-member surgeons;
Operate in accredited surgical facilities; and
Be elected by at least 80% of the Active Membership.
Find an ASPS member online.

5. Hospital privileges to perform the same type of surgery
Hospitals often examine qualifications of doctors applying for hospital staff privileges and restrict privileges to only surgeons best trained and qualified to do certain procedures. For example, in order for surgeons to be granted plastic surgery privileges in most hospitals in Orange County, California, that surgeon must have completed plastic surgery residency training and must be board-eligible or -certified in plastic surgery to be allowed to perform plastic surgical operations in that hospital.

Non-surgeons and other physicians that are not plastic surgeons circumvent this process by performing surgery in their offices or in outpatient surgery centers where the credentialing process is less rigorous or nonexistent. In these settings non-plastic surgeons perform procedures in which they have no formal residency training.

I am not warning against use of outpatient surgery centers or in-office procedures. I am only recommending that you check that your physician has hospital privileges for these same procedures.

6. Surgical Experience in the procedure you are having
Few patients ask how long doctors have been doing a certain procedure or how many they have performed. When you consult with a plastic surgeon:

Ask to see typical “before and after” photos;
discuss the details of the procedure in a manner that is clear to you;
review benefits and potential complications;
get full answers to your questions.
7. Evidence of Excellence, Experience and Commitment to the field of Plastic Surgery
Here are some additional criteria to look for in your plastic surgeon.

Surgical Board Certification in more than one field
Plastic Surgical Fellowships in addition to Plastic Surgical Residency.
Number of years practicing.
Peer Review Honors in their own board certification from groups such as Best Doctors, Top Doctors, Super Doctors.
Current or Prior position denoting excellence in the field or high regard by their peers such as:
Prior or present Professor or Faculty affiliation with a University Plastic surgical program (the higher the rank the better)
Chairman of a Department of plastic surgery at a regional hospital
Honors from surgical societies of which they are members such as Board Examiner, etc.
Published Plastic Surgical papers in peer review journals are also a good sign that they are committed to being on top of their field.
Feel Comfortable with your choice
It is very important that after you have done this screening and met with your potential surgeon that you feel confident in your choice.

Complications are not common in cosmetic surgery, but if one did occur are you confident that this surgeon would take charge and handle just about any problem?

Do you feel that he listens to you and communicates well by answering your questions completely, doesn’t rush you in to a decision but rather makes you part of the decision-making process? You should truly feel that it is a combined effort.

Does the surgeon’s office run smoothly? Do the staff take good care of you? If you answered in the affirmative and have gotten this far in your screening guidelines then I think you have found your “Dr. Right.”

—Larry S. Nichter, MD, FACS

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 72 reviews

Which Specialist for Facelift

Both specialities have training in performing facelifts.  An ABPS trained surgeon has more comprehensive training in all aspects of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery for the face and body, whereas an ABFPRS trained surgeon is trained in ear, nose, and throat surgery with additional training in facial cosmetic surgery.  If you don't personally know someone who has had a facelift, then ask a doctor you trust for some recommendations or get names from the referral services of both organizations.  Then schedule a consultation with several doctors, explaining your concerns and goals, and listen to what each has to say.  Ask to see photos of results and see if you connect with one doctor.  You want to choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable, someone who seems to understand what you are looking for, and who has experience and an artistic sense of beauty.

Richard G. Schwartz, MD
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Choosing a surgeon for a facelift

Both boards are acceptable board requirements for facial plastic and plastic surgeons.  More importantly, it is best to look for a surgeon who has extensive experience in facial surgery, dedicates their practice to facial cosmetic surgery, performing an extensive amount of facelifts.  It is also important to make sure that the surgeon performs the procedure in a certified ambulatory surgery center and that the anesthesia is performed by a board certified physician anesthesiologist.  Also, look for before and after photographs with a very natural and refreshing result rather than the pulled and wind tunneled look.  This will give a good indication of the surgeons work and competency.

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

For a Facelift, is an ABFPRS or ABPS Surgeon Preferred?

 Both are trained to perform facelifts.  You should choose your facelift surgeon according to his ability to understand and follow the proper aesthetics of facial beauty for the creation of a naturally more youthful and attractive face.  Experience performing faclifts is simply not enough.

Francis R. Palmer, III, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Plastic surgeon or facial plastic surgeon for facelift? Yes

Plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are comprehensively trained in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face and body; facial plastic surgeons have training in ear nosse & throat surgery followed by fellowship training in facial plastic surgery. So both are equally trained and capable, depending on the focus of their specific practice. Plastic surgeons don't have less training in facial surgery, just additional training in procedures for other parts of the body.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Yes, an ABPS or ABFPRS surgeon is a good start, but don't stop there.

You are not alone in wondering who to select as your surgeon.  It is not easy.  As you already know, choosing a plastic surgeon who is a member of either society is a good first step.   However, just as you would do in choosing a builder or an architect, you need to look at their work.  If you can find 10 before and after photos of results that you personally would find satisfactory, that is a good sign.  I call this the "rule of 10."  The photos should be patients that had surgery performed by your surgeon of course (and the after photos should not be embellished with makeup, jewelry and big smiles).  You also need to become educated about the difference in techniques (all facelifts are not created equal and some are of questionable benefit, particularly "minilifts").  The single most important decision in getting a good result is your choice of surgeon.   If you wish to read more about facelifts, you can visit my website.  I've attached a link.

Eric Swanson, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

For a facelift which certification is best?

  It seems to me that you would like to select a surgeon who is well trained, has lots of experience in facelift procedurees, and with whom you feel comfortable.  Please don't forget about oculo-facial plastic surgeons (certified by ASOPRS) who are among the most  excellent and qualified of all doctors who do facelift procedures.

Lawrence Kass, MD
Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

There are very qualified Facial Plastic Surgeons and Plastic Surgeons who do facelifts

The ABFPRS certifies facial plastic surgeons and the ABPS plastic surgeons. Both are trained in facelifts. That certification alone does not mean the doctor is a good facelift surgeon. Look at before and afters (make sure they are from your surgeon). Find out what percentage of their practice is faces vs. body surgery such as breast surgery and lipo.

Steven J. Pearlman, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.