I am going in for a plastic surgery consultation, but I am kind of nervous because I don't even know what to ask the doctor. What are the most important questions I should be asking during my plastic surgery consultation?
Cosmetic Surgery Consultation Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Doctor Answers (5)
6 important questions to ask your plastic surgeon
The best questions to ask during a consultation with a plastic surgeon include:
- What are the complications associated with this procedure?
- How are charges for complications or revisions handled in your practice?
- How many of these procedures have you performed?
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Is the surgical facility certified by AAAASF (American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities)?
- And don't be afraid to ask for references from other patients.
The consultation process has many aspects. The most important is that does the doctor and staff communicate clearly and are you comfortable with how you are treated. The patient should be comfortable in communicating their needs and objectives to the surgeon, and the surgeon should then provide a honest evaluation of the procedure(s) that can be performed and the degree of improvement that a patient can expect.
At the end of the initial consultation, the patient should know:
- The surgeon's qualifications. The surgeon should at the minimum be a board certified plastic surgeon. If the surgeon is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Fellow of American College of Surgeons, and/or Fellow of International College of Surgeons, it may suggest that he/she is experienced and well respected in the field.
- You should know the location of the surgery. If it is credentialed by a national organization such as AAAASF, then it may suggest a safer and more stable environment.
- You should know the type of anesthesia to be used. Some surgeons are cutting corners to save money. For example, some surgeons are using IV sedation for large liposuctions, which impedes healing and reduces the probability of a good result.
- You should know who is providing anesthesia. For general anesthesia cases, it generally helps if an MD Anesthesiologist is providing the anesthesia.
- You should know if the expert is experienced and frequently performs the type of surgery you are seeking.
- You should have an opportunity to review before and after photographs of other patients to understand the extent of improvement to be expected.
- You should have a clear understanding of the procedure and potential risks.
- References can be requested but most surgeons will not provide them in order to protect the identity and privacy of their patients.
Only once you are satisfied that the surgeon will provide good quality medicine, then surgical fees should be discussed.
Choosing a plastic surgeon questions to ask
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?
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.
If you are satisfied that a cosmetic plastic surgeon you are considering has the appropriate training, experience and credentials, then the next step is to determine if you and this surgeon are `on the same page' aesthetically. As you are about to undertake a permanent alteration to your outward appearance, you should be comfortable with your cosmetic surgeon personally, feel like you communicate easily, and feel like you have the same vision for the aesthetic improvement that you desire.
Reviewing `before and after' photos can help to confirm that a surgeon shares your sense of what is a desirable outcome for a given surgical procedure. In your consultation appointment you should expect the surgeon to take time to carefully and thoughtfully evaluate your `starting point' and to discuss with you in detail their proposal for improving your appearance. There are quite a number of surgical approaches for the improvement of any given aesthetic concern, and you should therefore expect to have a number of treatment options discussed. You should also receive a clear explanation of why a surgeon feels that one particular approach is the best one for you personally.
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.
Ten Questions to Ask Before Your Surgery
1. What are your credentials and training experience?
Patients are often referred to a surgeon by word of mouth; so, it is important to know what qualifies the surgeon to perform your procedure. Ask your surgeon if he/she is “board certified” in plastic surgery. ASPS Member Surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and are trained specifically in plastic surgery. They operate only in accredited medical facilities, adhere to a strict code of ethics and fulfill continuing education requirements, including patient safety techniques.
2. How many procedures of this type have you performed and do you have photos I can see?
In addition to knowing your surgeon’s credentials, it is important to know the level of experience he/she has in performing your procedure. Choosing an experienced surgeon is one way to ensure good results. An experienced doctor should also have a portfolio of before and after pictures so you can see the results of their work.
3. Can I work with implant sizers?
Since you are interested in breast augmentation, ask to be able to work with implant sizers to better communicate the look you are trying to achieve. Women tend to think in cup sizes because that is how you buy your bras. Unfortunately, cup size for patients having breast augmentation is a very subjective measurement because everyone wears their bras differently and every bra manufacturer makes them differently. Implant sizers are a much more helpful way to visualize your final results.
4. What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?
Certain surgeries require that you stop smoking, lose weight or follow a specific diet limiting the food you eat and the medications you take prior to your surgery; or, there may be medications that your surgeon wants you to take before your procedure. Make sure that you speak to your surgeon and your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about any allergies or about any conditions for which you are taking medication. You should mention any vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter medications as well.
5. What are the risks?
Every surgery has some associated risk. Weigh the benefits of the procedure against the risks of side effects and complications (e.g. nausea, vomiting, pain, infection, capsular contraction or blood clots) before making your decision.
6. How can I better manage post-surgical side effects and complications such as nausea, vomiting, pain, infection or bleeding?
Some post-surgical side effects and complications are more manageable than others. Make sure you speak to your surgeon about your risk of experiencing side effects and complications and about any medications he/she may prescribe to minimize these symptoms. For example, your surgeon may prescribe a medication before surgery to minimize nausea and vomiting .
7. How will side effects or complications be handled?
If you should experience a side effect or complication after surgery, find out who will be available to address your concerns and when. Ask if any additional costs will be incurred should you need additional treatment.
8. How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
Some surgeries take longer to recover from than others. Make sure you speak to your surgeon about how long it will take to heal, as well as how you might physically feel immediately following your surgery. Your surgeon will be able to inform you of the arrangements necessary to ease your recovery.
9. Will my recovery keep me from my usual, daily activities such as work?
The recovery time associated with your surgery is dependent on the nature and length of the procedure as well as the type of work you do. To ensure that you don’t slow your recovery, make sure you speak to your surgeon about the things you may or may not be able to do in the first few days and weeks after surgery.
10. Where and how will you perform my procedure?
Find out if your surgery will be performed in a hospital, office, or ambulatory facility. If the surgery you are considering is performed in an office or ambulatory facility, make sure it is accredited, which means the facility has passed strict guidelines for equipment, staff, hospital access, anesthesia administration, and more. ASPS requires all members who perform surgery under anesthesia to do so in an accredited facility. Also, if your procedure will be performed in an office or ambulatory facility ensure that your doctor has privileges to perform the same procedure at an accredited hospital.
It is very important when going in to a plastic surgical...
It is very important when going in to a plastic surgical consultation to think through what questions you have and what information you need to learn to receive the maximum benefit from the visit. Having a written list can be helpful in organizing these questions and can assure that all are answered.
Key points in my opinion are:
- Make sure your visit will include significant time with the doctor, not just one of the staff.
- Be certain the doctor is American Board of Plastic Surgery-certified and operates in an accredited surgical facility (AAAASF for example).
- The surgeon should have significant experience in the procedure you are interested in and should show you un-retouched before and after pictures of many patients who look as much like yourself as possible. Be sure the results look like what you would want because no two surgeons are the same and neither are their results!
- Be sure you are comfortable with that surgeon and his/her staff. It is vital to have a good working relationship between all parties for the best surgical experience. Listen to your gut instinct here.
- Don't base your decision primarily on price. Usually the better doctors charge more because their results are better and their practices are busier. It is more expensive to have to go to another doctor later to redo surgery than to have it done properly in the first place.