yellow pages seems like a bad idea for finding plastic surgoen but i am new to my town and have no network of friends to ask. what can i do to find the best plastic surgeon?
How to Find the Best Plastic Surgeon?
Doctor Answers (11)
The Best Plastic Surgeon - Questions to find the best plastic surgeon for you
Be careful about investigating board certification. Some doctors today are promoting themselves as being double board certified, triple board certified and even quadruple board certified.
Thousands of physicians with no residency training in plastic surgery and without certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (the only Board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties that certifies plastic surgeons) promote themselves as `cosmetic surgeons' and `plastic surgeons'. Some are primary care physicians, some are emergency room doctors; some have never completed a residency training program in any specialty and are not eligible to take any specialty board exam. Many take `weekend courses' on liposuction, or breast augmentation, or facelifts, then return to their practice and begin promoting that procedure and performing it on patients.
The minimum amount of training in plastic surgery that will allow a physician to be eligible for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is five years, and many board-certified plastic surgeons, myself included, have several additional years of training in general surgery and plastic surgery. There are a number of reasons for such a significant training requirement. Chief among them are the following: one does not acquire sophistication in diagnosis and treatment planning, superior surgical skill, and the capacity to minimize the possibility of complications and unfavorable outcomes by taking weekend courses. It requires years of training experience under the direction of talented mentors. It requires devotion to the art and practice of plastic surgery.
Be careful in evaluating physicians whose `Board Certification' is by a `Board' which is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and who belong to an `Academy' that does not require residency training in plastic surgery. Some will claim that they are `double-' or even `triple-board certified', when only one (and occasionally none) of those `boards' are recognized by the ABMS. Visit the ABMS website to see which specialties have ABMS recognition.
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.
Verify that major surgical procedures are performed in an accredited surgery center and that anesthesia care is provided by board-certified M.D. anesthesiologists. If you are most comfortable with overnight observation after surgery with the bedside care of an R.N., verify that this is available to you. Look up your surgeon on your state's Medical Board website to verify that they are in good standing and have no public record of sanction or limitation of their license to practice.
Be confident enough to ask some `difficult' questions. Feel empowered to ask any physician questions like: What are your complication and reoperation rates for this procedure? Has a cosmetic surgery that you performed ever resulted in a lawsuit? Have you had any serious complications and unplanned hospitalizations after cosmetic surgery? Have you ever been disciplined by a state medical board? I am never offended by these kinds of questions, and no competent and qualified surgeon should be. In my opinion it is actually the savvy prospective cosmetic surgery patient who does this kind of `due diligence'.
A Five-Minute Call Can Save You Two Hours and $200
Once you have a list of prospective cosmetic surgeons, make a few two-minute calls. You could save hours and hundreds of dollars. The following checklist will be your outline for a productive, efficient phone inquiry.
Checklist for Telephone Screening Call:
Name of doctor: ________________________________________
Questions to ask:
Is the doctor board certified? If the answer is “yes,” which specialty
board? The American Board of ___________________________.
Did the doctor serve a cosmetic surgery fellowship?
Does the practice conduct cosmetic surgery only?
Time out. If, so far, you don’t have at least two “yes” answers, say: “Thank you, good-bye” and go on to the next doctor on the list. That practice was not for you.
What five procedures does the doctor perform most frequently? If what you’re considering doesn’t make the list, say “Good-bye.”
Where does the doctor perform his surgeries? Office? Outpatient surgery center? Hospital? (circle response).
Is office or outpatient surgery center facility licensed by the state, certified by Medicare and/or accredited by JCAHO, AAAASF or AAAHC?* (circle one ormore).
If none of the above, you are courting danger.
Tell the manager your sink is overflowing and hang up.
Skip the Yellow Pages. Go Straight to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
It’s a big decision to have plastic surgery. If you are like most people, you have been thinking about this for quite some time. Maybe you’ve been struggling with the concept of doing something that’s just for you. Then, once you’ve gotten to the point that you are ready to go forward, another big decision comes up: How do I find the right plastic surgeon?
This is one of the most important decisions you can make. Your outcome depends greatly on the skill and thoroughness of your surgeon. And your overall experience depends on the quality of your surgeon’s office staff.
First thing's first: make sure any doctor you consult is really a plastic surgeon. This sounds pretty elementary, but it can be confusing. Other physicians and dentists advertise themselves in the Yellow Pages as plastic surgeons, but have no formal training in plastic surgery. Most people are amazed at this fact, and ask, "Isn't there some kind of a law that prevents doctors from performing surgeries they are not trained to perform?" The answer is unfortunately no. The state licenses a physician to practice medicine, but does not limit the doctor to a particular specialty.
Your best bet in finding the right doctor for you, is to make sure he or she is a board-certified plastic surgeon. It is not enough anymore to just ask a doctor if they are "board-certified". As straightforward as this may sound, most doctors are board-certified in some medical specialty. But, board-certified by whom, and in what?
Here are the facts you need to know. There is one overseeing board that regulates the certification of doctors in their specialties: the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS). So the American Board of Internal Medicine certifies your internist, and the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, certifies your orthopedic surgeon and so forth. The only ABMS board that certifies plastic surgeons is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Don't be confused by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, or other boards mentioning plastic surgery. Be aware that these are self-appointed boards without strict training requirements. The American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize them, and their members are not board-certified plastic surgeons.
Becoming a board-certified plastic surgeon is not a short, or easy process as you might imagine. After completing four years of medical school, plastic surgeons will have a residency of between 6 and 8 years of training in surgery, and in plastic surgery specifically. After completing residency a plastic surgeon is considered “board eligible.” For them to become “board certified,” comprehensive written and oral exams must be taken, and actual cases performed by the surgeon must be reviewed. At that point, they are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and are true plastic surgeons. But what a bunch of boards and initials! There must be an easier way to find out who’s who. And, in fact, there is.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the ASPS, is the foremost authority on plastic surgery in the world. This is all you have to remember, four letters: ASPS. The American Board of Plastic Surgery has certified every ASPS member. These surgeons must adhere to a strict code of ethics, and participate in continuing education throughout their careers.
You, as a patient, benefit from your plastic surgeon’s vast amount of resources, emphasis on patient safety, and networking with the best plastic surgeons in this country, and across the world.
Choosing a plastic surgeon
Cosmetic procedures are now performed by a variety of people. Patients are often shocked to find that their cosmetic surgeon who operated on their breasts was actually primarily trained as an oral surgeon, dermatologist, or even emergency room physician.
Because cosmetic surgery is unregulated there really aren't state or federal laws in place to protect patients to the degree one would expect. This may change in the future.
Make sure they have been trained appropriately by visiting websites like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, etc.
Finding the best plastic surgeon for a specific...
Finding the best plastic surgeon for a specific procedure can be a difficult task. If a patient is looking to have a face-lift, seek out a board-certified facial plastic surgeon. Look at the physician’s credentials, resume, and previous results; also ask to see before-and-after pictures of multiple patients who have facial structures similar to your own. It is important that the surgeon performing your face-lift have a great deal of experience with this operation.
It is also important to have an excellent rapport with your physician, and both of you should have a good understanding of one another. Equally important is to have a board-certified physician anesthesiologist as well as a certified ambulatory surgery center.
How to find the best plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills
Meeting the doctor and getting the feel for him/her is key, no matter what you read about them in plastic surgery reviews.
How to Pick the Best Facelift 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.
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
Finding the right Surgeon
I agree that you need to do your research, choose a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (not cosmetic surgery) and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. From here, you know you are selecting from qualified surgeons. You need to meet with the surgeon, see many examples of their work and talk to patients about their experience with the surgeon and the staff. If there is a way to speak to and meet patients who have undergone a similar procedure, that is usually very useful.
No Easy Answer
There are alot of good answers already here. This is one of the most difficult questions for patients to research. Finding someone qualified to perform the procedure must be distinguished from someone who is considered an expert at the procedure. The best way to find a surgeon is "word of mouth". This means an actual patient who has had the procedure performed by another surgeon. However, the weakness of this approach is that your friend most likely will have different anatomy and different aesthetic expectations than yourself and that you may not know someone who has had a satisfactory experience with a plastic surgeon.
A qualified surgeon will be board certified in the appropriate specialty, have surgical privileges at a hospital or surgery center to perform the procedure. An expert surgeon will have performed the procedure numerous times, his/her practice will focus on this procedure(s), and the ability to demonstrate compelling before and afters in office. In addition, an expert surgeon may or may not have an academic affiliation and has published material in the scientific literature on the procedure you are seeking.
The Best Plastic Surgeon
Prior to arranging an initial consultation, you can check a surgeon's website or make a quick phone call.
If you are searching for substance over style - it is possible to have a flashy, professional looking website where there is no substance in the practice. Conversely, you can have a messy website with substance.
Also, the person initially answering a practice's website will have varying degrees of experience. Make sure you are speaking with the office manager or patient coordinator, or you may get a false impression.
Some of the elements you are looking for:
- Credentials - Is the surgeon a board certified plastic surgeon? There are a number of other specialties performing cosmetic medicine (with varying degrees of success) so you want to ensure that the physician is credentialled in the field that you want.
- Is the surgeon a Member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a Fellow of American College of Surgeons, or a Fellow of International College of Surgeons? If so, this may indicate how the surgeon is perceived in the field.
- Where does the surgeon perform the procedure? It should be certified by a national organization such as AAAASF. What level of anesthesia can be performed a tthe facility?
- Who performs the anesthesia? Anesthesia is best performed by MD Anesthesiologists.
- Is the surgeon proficient in the surgery? A more established practice may have more surgeries that they perform regularly than a surgeon just starting out.
- I wouldn't ask for fees over the phone. Different practices structure fees differently so you will not get a good comparison.
- Does the surgeon offer a free consultation? After a few minutes with a surgeon, you will know if his personality and philosophy fit your needs. Meet with 3 board certifified plastic surgeons to get a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each.