When choosing a plastic surgeon it is imperative to select a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Often, plastic surgeons who perform a great deal of aesthetic or cosmetic surgery will also be members of ASAPS. A plastic surgeon who is a member of ASAPS is an indication that a surgeon has significant interest in aesthetic plastic surgery. When evaluating a surgeons training, look for completion of a plastic surgery fellowship. A fellowship is an elite qualification that only a small percentage of surgeons performing cosmetic plastic surgery can claim. , a surgeon who has had an additional fellowship of training has completed focused and intense specialized training in a particular area of interest
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'.