Is the Number of Procedures Done by Doctors a Good Indicator of Success?

What is a fair amount of times per year that a doctor has performed surgery? I have been speaking with I plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck, breast lift and breast implants. The time has come and I am extremely nervous. I was wondering if the amount of times the doctor has performed all 3 procedure is a prediction of better results.

Doctor Answers 19

How many of these have you done? Assessing a surgeon's experience.

When patients come into my office, they often ask this question, "how many of these have you done, doctor?" They have no idea what the right answer is. I'm not sure what the right answer is myself! Perhaps if the surgeon breaks down stuttering when asked the question, that is a bad sign.

So how can you tell if your prospective doctor is qualified to do a procedure? Or better yet, how can you tell if your doctor is a leader in the field? The readers of RealSelf are sophisticated buyers, among the most sophisticated out there. They do their research. Chances are at Step One, they are sitting in front of a selected group of board certified plastic surgeons.

So what else is is important to consider?

Reputation. Good doctors, even competitors, will usually acknowledge who is a good doctor. The local internists and GYNs and dermatologists will have heard of them. They are known for doing good work over the course of many years and they stand behind their work. If something goes wrong, they look the problem in the eye and fix it, or bring in the proper team to fix it. Word gets out and a reputation is established. Often these doctors are referred complex cases. Often they have prestigious appointments at fine universities where they teach residents.

Innovation. This doesn't mean just "inventing" the "abazabba facelift", appearing on Good Morning America and touting its virtues. That is called marketing, not innovation. It means true innovation. The new method should have merit and sound logic behind it. If you hear the new technique and say,"OK I get it", that is a good sign. Often that means publishing the results to peers so they can pick apart the technique for flaws.

Thriving practice. Top doctors usually having thriving practices. They are busy and do a lot of surgery. Patients seek them out because of their reputations and the results they have personally seen. As a prospective patient, it is hard to tell how busy a doctor is. "We are busy for months but we'll fit you in next week", what does that really mean? But you will get the "vibe" in the office during the consultation whether you are the only patient that day.

Repeat patients. Doctors who do the best surgery have patients for life. They operate on the daughters and sons of their patients when the time comes. Repeat patients are, in my opinion, one of the best gauges for a fine doctor.

The consultation. Doctors who have done the operation many times will have scores of before-after photographs to show prospective patients. It is important to view these photos carefully. They will tell you how the doctor's results are, but also what their style is. No artist has the same style, and no surgeon has the same style.

When you have arrived in the right office, you will know it.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 177 reviews

How much experience does a surgeon need for cosmetic succes?

All surgeons are different in their talent, judgment, training, and artistic eye. You can teach surgery and procedures but you cannot teach talent and artistry. You either have it or you don't.

So, please carefully look at multiple photos of a doctor's work and look for what you want in your own result.

Also, make sure they are Board Certified in Plastic Surgery, not in Cosmetic Surgery as this is not a real board certification recognized by the Am. Board of Medical Specialties.

They should do a good volume of work but the exact number of procedures is not relevant and some will exaggerate how much they do to try and entice you to stay with them.

Listen to your gut instinct and proceed. Good luck!

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Surgeon's volume

Surgical volume or caseload is only relatively important, I think. A busy surgeon can be too busy, or busy doing the wrong procedure or operating on the wrong patient, or busy because of low price. A sugeon doing fewer procedures may do each with more care and thought in a unpressures manner. Obviously some experience is important but how a surgeon aproaches his work and you as a patient is probably more imprtant the the number of times a procedure is performed. Great surgeons learn to improvise and adapt and modify procedures to fit a patient's individual needs. It is the diffeence between an artist and a technician, although a surgeon certainly can, and perhaps should, be both. Rather than look at numbers, ask for referral to speak to former patients.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

I'll tell you how you can tell if your doctor is competent...

Here's how: he or she is recommending A LOT of surgery to do at once. Many surgeons do it; it is certainly within the standard of care to do them together. BUT, we all know that there is increasing evidence that there are risks when additional procedures are done simultaneous with a tummy tuck. Did he or she discuss that with you? Did he or she explain that to you? Did he or she demonstrate an understanding of these issues?

You asked about success. Your first definiton of success is spelled s-a-f-e-t-y. Go back and discuss that with him or her. If they show an understanding of these issues, then look at their photos and judge the quality of their results for yourself.

Steven Teitelbaum, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Experience with Tummy Tuck, Breast Implants, Breast Lift

You pose a good question. What makes one surgeon better than another? Is time the factor? There are many different factors that determine a skilled surgeon. Time is one factor that is both good and bad. The more years a surgeon practices the more experience he gets. In addition the more times he performs a particular surgery then in theory the better he should be.

However, I've seen some outcomes from some well seasoned surgeons that are in my office for a revision. So just doing a lot of a particular procedure doesn't make you necessarily better.

Other areas that delineate more skilled vs less skilled surgeons are: training, personality, motivation, ability to conceptualize, artistry and innate "God given" talent. If your surgeon can explain what he will do, why he does what he does, the complications he's gotten (no complications means he hasn't operated enough) and the outcomes and you are comfortable with him then you'll be fine.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

The more experience with breast lift, augmentation and tummy tuck the better the result for sure

While doing anything many times wrong doesn't make a better result, the more often a surgeon preforms breast lifts, augmentation and tummy tucks either together or separately, the better their results will be. Experience is always a great teacher. The more often you do any thing the better your results will be. Do not let some one tell you other wise. To get good results with these procedures you need to be doing them frequently. Don't settle for a surgeon even if they are board certified plastic surgeons if they are not frequently doing these procedures.

Carl W. "Rick" Lentz III, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Experience and judgment in surgery.

This is a difficult question to answer. Generally, the more one performs a procedure, the more opportunity one has to perfect the precedure and learn. However, this is not always true, if one is not critical of their own results. A surgeon must review and constantly analyze in order to advance their skills. One old saying comes to mind: Good judgment comes from experience but experience comes from bad judgment. Certainly, this is not always the case but it does have a grain of truth.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Finding the Best Plastic Surgeon for You

Experience definitely is important when selecting a surgeon.  Before and after photographs of the surgery you are considering can be important and can help in the decision-making process. At minimum, a dozen before and after photos of the surgery you are considering should be available. 

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. Although many capable aesthetic surgeons are not ASAPS members, searching for a plastic surgeon who is a member of ASAPS is an indication that a surgeon has significant interest in aesthetic plastic surgery.
Selecting a plastic surgeon should always start with board certification 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?

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.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 118 reviews

Tummy tuck

After a number of procedures under the belt, it becomes a matter of artistic endeavor, rather the number of procedures.  Experience does count, however.

Shahin Javaheri, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Better results of breast lift, breast implants, and tummy tuck with more experienced surgeon.


It's all about the individual surgeon. You want a meticulous surgeon with a good eye. And there are surgeons who do a lot of operations with mediocre results. But, in general, the more breast lift, breast implants, and tummy tuck that a surgeon has done, the better your chances.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 9 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.