Do plastic surgeons tend to specialize in doing body procedures versus face procedures? Can someone realistically be great at both? I want to have a facelift - neck lift. How do I find someone who is really expert at this? Should I just ask them what percentage of their practice is face and neck versus breast augmentation or the like? In L.A. where I live, everyone will tell you they are great at everything, but how do you really know?
Can a Plastic Surgeon Be Great at Both Face and Body Procedures?
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Doctor Answers 32
It is not the anatomy; it is surgical principles and aesthetics!
What distinguishes Cezanne from Van Gogh is not that one painted only fruit baskets and the other only landscapes. In fact, both men painted both subjects. What distinguishes Cezanee from Van Gogh is how they saw the world and what they wanted to communicate in their paintings.
Facial, breast, and body anatomy that is relevant to aesthetic surgery is not so complex that a well-trained, intelligent, and diligent surgeon cannot master them all.
What distinguishes between different surgeons, like the painter's technique, is their taste, judgment, surgical abilities, and patient management skills.
"Indeed, there are many doctors who are excellent in all areas of anatomy. In fact, the most famous plastic surgeons of history were said to be "master surgeons of the skin of the body and its contents."
It frustrates me that when I wrote an article on tummy tucks, that somehow patients got the notion that I was only an expert at tummy tucks. And then I wrote some article on breast augmentation, and the patients who read just those articles were surpised to learn I did tummy tucks! Getting well-known in one area does not make you any less good in another area!
In fact, a lot is gained from working on different parts of the body. You learn about new instruments or techniques that were developed for one area, and it helps your imagination or gives you idea for how to improve what you are doing in another area. There is tremendous cross pollination in surgery, and if I were having surgery on my right thumb, I would want a surgeon who did more than just right thumb surgery!
One other point is that while you may like a surgeon's aesthetic judgement regarding the nose, you may not share that surgeon's opinion about the breast. Be sure that the surgeon you select sees things the same way you do with regards to the area you are considering having him/her operate on.
Finally, being a great aesthetic surgeon - more than anything else - is about being a GREAT DOCTOR. Sometimes, that can be forgotten. The best plastic surgeons I know also know the most about cardiology, internal medicine, etc. They excelled in their residency when doing trauma surgery or even neurosurgery. Being smart, well-read, caring, conscientious, attentive - as well as having meticulous and bloodless surgical technique- are the most important qualities of an aesthetic surgeon.
Of course, you will hear ENT surgeons suggest that since they only do facial surgery that they are better, but this is of course foolish. Some people are limited by training; others by ability. But no doubt many of the very most outstanding plastic surgeons do so on both the face and the body.
Determining if a plastic surgeon is good
If you ask anyone if they're good at what they do, the answer is predictable. You must look at their results. Irregardless of if they call themselves a facial or an eyelid or a nasal plastic surgeon you must evaluate their results. Those plastic surgeons that are good at faces and breast augmentation and body procedures (there's thousands of them) are likely good to great surgeons with a good eye for the aesthetic result. That's what you need. Assuming you've found the proper credentials (American Board of Plastic Surgeons is the gold standard credentialling for people who did their residency training in plastic surgery) and have heard from friends that he/she is talented, then you should see their before and after photos critically and hear what they have to say about some of their results.
Nobody can look into the future and tell you what the end result will be, but if you do your homework properly you could really land in the hands of a good quality individual with a real eye for creating a smooth, realistic, youthful look -- not a forced one with stretched out skin. Most patients that seek facial cosmetic surgery want a nice natural result. All doctors that do these surgeries boast excellence in the field (whether they do tummy tucks and breast augs as well or not). Someone that is popular may have a booming practice regardless of skill levels. You need to evaluate their results critically and make your decision from there. Good luck to you, this is a tough decision that you should consult your friends and others on -- they'll help you make a sound decision.
Plastic surgery for both face and body
There are certainly surgeons talented in both face and body. Generally surgeons pick procedures they love to perform and perfect those. When you have found the right surgeon, you will probably feel at home in their office, and will often have the sense that you are in the best hands.
Of course to paraphrase Reagan, trust but verify.... Look critically at the doctor's before after pictures, their CV (resume), their publications and ask your doctor friends if they have heard of the doctor's reputation. Top surgeons will excel in all these areas.
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It is possible to be an excellent facial and body plastic surgeon
The first thing you will need to determine is whether the surgeon is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery (Am. Board of Plastic Surgery). If that is the case, they have had extensive formal training in all aspects of plastic surgery on all parts of the body. No other cosmetic surgery specialty has this and as such, they are pretenders if they promote themselves as equal in training.
Second, you need to meet with several surgeons and carefully inspect multiple photos of their work in all areas you are interested in having improvement. Your discerning eye should begin to tell you which surgeon has the greatest artistic talent and this is something that no training program can teach. Also, how do you feel about the surgeon and their staff and where will the surgery be performed and who will do the anesthesia?
Finally, ask for real patient references from the doctor and from your own gynecologist, other doctors and friends.
Personally, after 25 years of practice, I have basically boiled my practice down to facelifts (cheek and neck lifts), all forms of breast surgery, and tummy tucks because those are the procedures I am the most interested in doing and feel I do the best at performing. Please check my photos on RealSelf for examples of face and breast/body work.
Here are the facts for face and body plastic surgery
1) Each residency and fellowship training has its strengths and weaknesses. Some programs are strong in cosmetics. Some are strong in reconstructive. Some are weak in both.
2) Each surgeon's practice ends up being tailored by various factors such as location, personal preferences, reputation, etc which end up making a surgeon do more of a certain type of surgery. However, most surgeons like the variety and are bored by being too super specialized and will continue to do most types of surgeries.
3) Board Certification and educational back ground or even numbers of surgeries performed do not result in a great surgeon. Some surgeons are inherently more talented than others. Some are safer than others. Some are more ethical than others.
4) Being a "jack of all trades" usually translates to being "master of none." That's just reality and not just in plastic surgery or even in medicine. Anyone who dedicates his professional to a very focused area of practice should be better at it than his counterparts - usually!
5) Doctors and their websites will tell you what you want to hear. You have to do your own homework to try to separate fact from hype. On the other hand, anonymous website ratings should also be taken with a huge grain of salt!
6) In the "best of all worlds" scenario, you will find two great plastic surgeons to do your surgery together. I do this all the time with my colleagues in the DC area. I do the Rhinoplasty and my colleague will do the Breast Augmentation or the tummy tuck or the brow lift, etc...
Plastic Surgeon Specialities
Plastic Surgeons are trained in cosmetic, hand, craniofacial, breast, wound and all other areas that have to do with the soft tissues. However, not all training is equal and depending on where they went depends on what they are comfortable doing.
I, for example, have done extensive hand and facial trauma surgery. And I was trained extensively in breast and cosmetic surgery. So I'm very comfortable doing facelifts and eyelid lifts as well as breast augmentations, reductions and reconstructions and finger replantations. I am of the belief that the more surgeries a surgeon performs the more adaptable he is. This is beneficial because there will always be things that come up that cause the surgeon to adapt.
However, other surgeons are not as adaptable and only feel comfortable doing, say, breast surgery. So find out what your surgeons likes to do-not what he's doing because of the recession.
Plastic surgeons can equally be expert at facial and body cosmetic surgery
As a dermatologic surgeon I have many chances to see the work of plastic surgeons. There are many who do excellent work regardless of the anatomical region upon which they work. It just requires them to have the talent and interest in doing the procedure. Referrals by friends who have had work are an excellent way of knowing the surgeon Is good as well as checking with your general physicians.
Face and Body Procedures
All board certified plastic surgeons are trained in both body and face procedures. Some plastic surgeons focus on specific areas some do it all. It is just a matter of interest. You can have a plastic surgeon that has done hundreds of some particular procedure but not be good at it, it means nothing how much they have done of one particular thing or how much they do.
You need to see the before and afters and feel comfortable with the plastic surgeon you seek. Those are the most important thing. Look at testimonials, ask to talk to some of his or her patients that have had the procedure.
At the end of the day you go with the surgeon that is board certified and honest and the one you feel comfortable with.
Great Plastic Surgeon
A well-trained Plastic surgeon is good at whatever he/she LIKES doing and works on improving.
A GREAT Plastic surgeon is one who posses Plastic Surgery experience and knowledge, has a critical eye for details, a constant striving for doing each procedure better than the last one AND posses God given talent.
Unlike some specialties whose livelihood and reason for being may hinge on repeatedly asserting an un-merited and unsubstantiated supremacy in eye surgery, facial surgery, skin / liposuction surgery, Real board-certified Plastic surgeons (check www.PlasticSurgery.org) have the longest training in post-medical school surgical trainings and have extensive Plastic Surgery knowledge and are far from being "generalists".
There is NO reason why a Plastic surgeon who is good with Breast and Body surgery many not be equally as good with Facial surgery. All you have to do is research your surgeon and know everything you can find about him. Armed with this information you should be able to make the right choice.
Dr. P. Aldea
Face and body surgery proficiency
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.