Choosing the Right Doctor for Your Breast Implant Surgery: 20 Essential Questions to Ask at a Consultation
Before you trust a doctor to perform your breast augmentation, you’ve got to do your research. Read reviews, look at before and after photos (both from the doctor and other patients), and meet them for a consultation, either in-person or via Skype, if they’re not in your area.
Experts recommend consulting with at least three plastic surgeons (not just their nurses or surgical coordinator), so you can compare answers and approaches. Use this list of essential questions at your appointments to get the most complete picture of their experience, qualifications, and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure.
1. Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to perform breast augmentation?
What to listen for: Surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) have undergone the most rigorous training (including at least three years of general surgery and two years of plastic surgery, specifically), passed written and oral exams, and are required to adhere to a stringent code of medical ethics.
Before your consultation, visit the ABPS website to confirm that the doctor you’re considering is board-certified in plastic surgery. You’ll also want to check each surgeon’s profile on their state’s Department of Health website to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against them.
2. How many breast augmentations do you personally perform each year? Each day?
What to listen for: Choose a physician whose level of experience you feel comfortable with, and pay close attention to whether they evade the question of how many surgeries they perform each day. Some RealSelf users have reported visiting practices that operate like an assembly line, with one surgeon doing ten or more surgeries per day at an unsafe pace.
3. Where will my surgery be performed?
What to listen for: Your surgery should be performed in a hospital or accredited outpatient surgery center that’s been certified for patient safety by the Joint Commission, the American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF), the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), and/or Medicare.
4. What are the risks of breast augmentation?
What to listen for: When performed by an experienced plastic surgeon, breast augmentation has a very high success rate. However, as with any surgery, it’s not completely risk-free. Potential side effects may include infection, bleeding, hematoma, scarring, capsular contracture, implant rupture, adverse reaction to anesthesia, or unsatisfactory results that may require additional surgery. It’s imperative to weigh the benefits against the risks.
5. How frequently do you see breast augmentation complications in your practice, and how do you handle them?
What to listen for: Every experienced doctor has dealt with some sort of complication. Some issues have nothing to do with the skill of the plastic surgeon, but with the way each individual's body heals. Knowing how often your surgeon sees complications, and how they handle them, will help you confidently decide whether or not you'd like to follow through with the procedure.
6. Do you have hospital privileges to perform breast augmentation?
What to listen for: Even if your surgery will be performed in an outpatient center, hospital privileges mean other doctors have verified their training and credentials. Your doctor should have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case a serious complication does arise.
7. Am I a good candidate for breast augmentation?
What to listen for: Optimal candidates for breast augmentation are close to their ideal weight, preferably with a BMI of 30 or less. Certain habits, health conditions, or emotional states might make you a poor candidate for the procedure. Are you willing to give up smoking? Do you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder? Be absolutely honest with your doctor to avoid serious complications down the line.
8. How much will my breast augmentation cost?
What to listen for: Price can vary widely depending on the methods used, the experience level of the surgeon, and location of the doctor, as well as additional surgical or operating room fees, anesthesia, and post-op appointments. The price should be comparable to other surgeons in the area with the same level of experience. When it comes to plastic surgery, price should never be your primary determining factor. If a doctor’s rate seems too good to be true, ask yourself what he or she may not be providing in terms of safety.
9. What type of breast augmentation is right for me?
What to listen for: Breast augmentation can be performed using implants or fat transfer. Those who choose implants have a variety of options, including silicone or saline, rounded or shaped, and textured or smooth — all of which come in many different sizes. These can also be placed using a variety of incision locations (read more here), as well as over or under the muscle. Discuss your desired results clearly so that you and your doctor can work together to choose the best option.
10. Can I see before and after photos of your previous breast augmentation procedures?
What to listen for: Insist on seeing as many recent before and after photos as you can. Plastic surgeons with experience and expertise should have dozens of images of breast augmentation from three different angles, all with the same lighting, distance from the camera, and cropping. Pay attention to patients who underwent your same type of augmentation and have similar body types, so you can get a sense of how your surgeon will tailor the procedure to your needs.
11. What will be expected of me to ensure the best results?
What to listen for: Your doctor will discuss the steps you need to take before and after surgery in order to ensure the best results. Can you stop smoking? Can you take the appropriate amount of time off work in order to recover? If you can’t meet all of your surgeon’s pre- and post-op instructions, you may need to reconsider your surgery.
12. On the day of my breast augmentation, will you be the one performing the surgery?
What to listen for: Once you’ve discussed your options, desires, and expectations, it’s important to verify that the person with whom you had your consultation will also be the one performing your surgery. Some practices may have you consult with a board-certified surgeon, only to pass you off to another doctor with inadequate credentials and experience.
13. What sort of anesthesia can I expect during my procedure?
What to listen for: There are three main types of anesthesia used during breast augmentation: general (you’re put to sleep), local (only the specific surgical site is numbed), and IV sedation/”twilight anesthesia” (your level of consciousness is altered). There are benefits and risks associated with each one. Talk to your doctor about these options.
14. Will my anesthesia be administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist or registered nurse anesthetist?
What to listen for: Your anesthesia should always be administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist. He or she should be present for the duration of your procedure, as well as during your recovery immediately after.
15. Who else will be assisting you during my breast augmentation? What are their qualifications and levels of experience?
What to listen for: A good surgical team, including experienced registered nurses and surgical technicians, helps ensure your safety and outcome.
16. Where will I recover immediately after my breast augmentation? Will I receive continuous care by trained medical staff?
What to listen for: If you won’t be having your procedure in a hospital or will be traveling to a location outside your area, your doctor may recommend a recovery facility. Some patients report being discharged to unlicensed facilities with little to no care, including inadequate food and water. Do your research on the options they recommend, and don’t be lured by low prices at the expense of your health.
17. What should I expect during recovery from breast augmentation?
What to listen for: It’s critical to follow all of the post-op instructions given to you by your surgeon. These will include information on taking care of your drains, wearing compression garments, taking pain medication, avoiding certain activities, and if and how long you’ll need someone to act as your caregiver. Your surgeon will explain the types of symptoms you can expect. If you think you’re experiencing something abnormal, call your plastic surgeon right away. (Read more on what to expect during recovery.)
18. Who will be handling my follow-up care and visits?
What to listen for: Recovery care can be just as important to your outcome as the surgery itself. If your surgeon won't be directly providing care during your follow-up visits, you should be seen by a registered nurse who can immediately alert and involve the doctor if they have any concerns about how you're healing.
19. Will I be able to breastfeed if I get pregnant after breast augmentation?
What to listen for: Breast augmentation should not impair your ability to breastfeed, though certain implant placement locations may have more of an affect on this than others. Discuss your options with your doctor, especially if you’re actively planning to become pregnant after breast augmentation.
20. What happens if I’m not satisfied with how my breasts look after surgery?
What to listen for: Each surgeon has his or her own policy regarding revision surgery after breast augmentation. Assuming adequate healing, many doctors will charge a reduced surgical fee, however implants, anesthesia, and facility costs will remain fixed. Ideally, these details should be outlined prior to the original procedure. The best way to avoid having to undergo a revision is to make sure you have an honest relationship with a surgeon you trust, and that you’re both on the same page before entering the operating room.
This guide has been medically reviewed for accuracy by board-certified Salt Lake City plastic surgeon Dr. Renato Saltz. Dr. Saltz has practiced and taught plastic surgery at the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Utah Wasatch Clinics. In 2002, Dr. Saltz left his eight-year position as Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and the Director of the Summit Plastic Surgery Center at the University of Utah to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening his own plastic surgery clinic. He specializes in facial rejuvenation, body contouring (including tummy tuck and liposuction), and breast augmentation, including reconstruction after mastectomy. Learn more on his RealSelf profile.
Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare professional. Your reliance on any information or content provided in the guide is solely at your own risk. You should always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare professional for any questions you have about your own medical condition. RealSelf does not endorse or recommend any specific content, procedure, product, opinion, healthcare professional or any other material or information in this guide or anywhere on this website.
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