Is It Safe to Have VASER Liposelection and SmartLipo Done by a Regular MD?

If he had the training to use those machines and had performed over 100 surgeries, is he still qualified to conduct the procedure/s? I got a good feeling about him during consultation, but I'm worried because he's not a plastic surgeon. Should I have a plastic surgeon do the procedures instead ? Please help. Thanks.

Doctor Answers 9

Absolutely don't go there!

You have uncovered a real problem in aesthetic medicine - namely the fact that any doctor can perform procedures without formal residency training and Board Certification! There are no regulations against it and it is a "buyer beware" market!

I have recently seen a patient who went to a Board Certified General Surgeon who claimed to be a national trainer for Smart lipo. She was destroyed by the procedure he performed. He has never had one day of plastic surgery training and is only doing this to get around the falling reimbursements he is getting from insurance companies for taking out somebody's appendix.

So - please find a surgeon who is certified by "The American Board of Plastic Surgery" and go for a consultation. Realize also that Smart lipo is mostly a marketing gimmick and hasn't ever been proven to cause better skin shrinkage than time and mother nature.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Is it safe to have plastic surgery by a Non-plastic surgeon?

Hi there-

I see at least one patient every month who has a significant deformity because they made poor assumptions and choices...

They assumed that because a doctor was doing a certain procedure that he/she was competent to do it and able to achieve the outcome they desired.

They assumed that the few days or weeks of training these physicians got in liposuction is equivalent to the YEARS of supervised training that Board Certified Plastic Surgeons obtain.

They assumed that doctors are fundamentally honest people driven by a desire to help people and do the right thing. This may have been true in the past, but I can tell you that if you don't think there are a lot of doctors all too willing to compromise their ethics and responsibility to "Do No Harm" to make a few bucks, you should examine why you're asking this question.

Would you let me, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, do a lung operation on you? What if I told you I knew how? You would probably not, because smart people realize that plastic surgeons did not do the years of training in lung surgery that a cardio-thoracic surgeon has done... Why would you think this is any different??

Please run away from this person and find a reputable and Board Certified Plastic Surgeon- I'm afraid that if you don't, you'll soon be in the office of one of my colleagues complaining about the deformity you have as a result of your poor decision.

Armando Soto, MD, FACS
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 157 reviews

SmartLipo by a General Doctor

Angelika, I'll answer your question with another question. If someone you love needed open heart surgery, would you let a family doctor perform that open heart surgery or would you insist that a cardiac surgeon perform it? 

Board certified plastic surgeons have years of training in every aspect of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Physicians who are not board certified in plastic surgery may be well meaning and may even have some skill, but you cannot truly believe that a few weeks of training is the same as many years of training. 

Though this doctor might have performed this procedure on 100 patients, he or she does not have the combination of education, skill and experience of a doctor who is board certified in plastic surgery.

So, what about it? Would you let a family doctor do your loved one's open heart surgery? While you might not think liposuction is as risky or important as open heart surgery, anytime you have a surgical procedure you're putting your well-being on the line. Why risk it? 

To your health & beauty,

Dr. Paul Vanek, Cleveland area Double Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in Mentor, OH

Paul Vanek, MD
Cleveland Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Beware the lipsuctionists

When we were in medical school, we all had the opportunities to sample different specialties and figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. Despite the rigors and the endless training, some of us chose to become plastic surgeons. We devoted our minds and time to the refinements of the craft. Some chose to be family practitioners. We were vey different, still are. I can't respect someone who gives up their values and personality to chase dollars in a tough economy. Liposuction is about the fat you leave behind. It's how you sculpt and shape the person. I doubt that the neophyte fat sucker gets that.

Peter D. Geldner, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

For any plastic surgery procedure, see a Plastic Surgeon

Unfortunately it’s all too easy these days for liposuction of all types to be performed by physicians ill-equipped or improperly trained to perform the procedures. A few days or few weeks of training is nothing when compared to the many years of supervised instruction a board certified plastic surgeon undergoes. And often surgeons will undergo a couple of years of additional focused training specializing in liposuction while working under doctors of approved residency programs. The bottom line is that your safety is the most important thing to consider when undergoing a procedure of any kind, including all forms of liposuction. For this reason, I highly recommend that you see a plastic surgeon who is highly experienced in Vaser Liposelection for any procedures you’re interested in, and discuss the best options for your unique situation.

Scott W. Mosser, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

If you want Plastic Surgery, see a Plastic Surgeon

Liposuction of all types (tumescent, VASER, Smartlipo, Cool lipo, Laser lipo) is done by all types of doctors now adays.  A lot of doctors are poorly trained or untrained in liposuction procedures.  When they buy a liposuction machine, the manufacturing company sends them to a weekend class on how to use the machine.  These doctors have had 2 days of training in liposuction and the rest of their training is done by practicing on paying patients....So BUYER BEWARE!!

Plastic Surgeons have had 6-7 years of training in surgery and 2-3 years of specific training in liposuction working under other plastic surgeons in approved residency programs.  I commonly see patients who have had liposuction and have significant deformities and complications.  These patients have had this commonly done by non-Plastic Surgeons. So again...BUYER BEWARE!!

Stanley Castor, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 116 reviews

If you like gambling with your appearance - have your liposuction done by a Non-Plastic Surgeon

It is were not so pathetically shameless and commercially self-serving, it would be amusing to hear the constant cacophony of inadequately-trained non-Plastic surgeons shamelessly boasting of their uniquely endowed magical powers of understanding and being at one "with the skin', of being members of so many (self-created , prestige pumping) societies, of being the innovators of every manner of fad and trend in cosmetic surgery, all the while demeaning real Plastic Surgeons.

There is a REAL economic reason why a LOT of money and energy go into these supremacy claims and bravado.

As Medicine is being changed for the worse for both patients and doctors, thousands of doctors who trained in and practiced in OTHER fields (such as ER Medicine, Family Practice, OBGYN, etc etc) have decided to LITERALLY PRACTICE Plastic Surgery - without taking the time to train in it formally.

With MANY weekend courses here and there. With MORE laser seminars here and there put out by Laser companies who will sell their machines to ANYONE. With Medical Spas sprouting everywhere. With lucrative preceptor ships and "fellowships" from doctors with real or questionable experience and with a plethora of bogus societies and "Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery" boards - THOUSANDS of these non-Plastic surgery trained and certified physicians are trying to lure millions of uneducated Americans looking for "Plastic Surgery" who do not know the difference into their offices.

Plastic surgeons trains as long if not longer than most brain surgeons do (see link below). Our surgical training is the longest and most in-depth in American Medical education - longer than that of heart surgeons, Orthopedic surgeons and all of medical specialties. This education not only gives real Plastic surgeons the maturity and judgment to deal with Cosmetic Surgery of THE WHOLE BODY but also how to best deal with its complications.

When we get on an airplane and walk past the cockpit, most of us sneak a look at the 2 guys sitting in the cockpit , hoping they are well trained. After all, we are willingly entrusting our lives to them for the next few hours.

When you walk into an ObGyn's office as a pregnant woman - you hope your doctor will safely deliver your baby as he/she was trained to do and hopefully has done thousands of times before. Would you feel the same level of confidence when the SAME OB approached your face with a laser which could permanently burn your face?

Would you feel the same level of confidence when a Family Practice MD who has trained for only 3-4 TOTAL post-graduate years after medical school, approached you with a steel tube hooked to a high vacuum to suction away your fat - knowing the same steel tube could puncture your vital organs or leave un-repairable depressions in your skin?

Finally, as regards Dermatologists, I regard many of them in high esteem. My most respected teacher in medical school was a Dermatologist with an encyclopedic memory and amazing diagnostic skills. BUT - their ability as surgeons varies enormously and it is laughable for ANY Dermatologist to assert supremacy over a Plastic surgeon in terms of surgical skills, in liposuction on otherwise.

Simply put, a 4-5 year Dermatology residency training, most of which is NOT spent planning surgical cases, performing cases in the OR (and honing surgical skills) or taking care of patients after surgery is NO match for the 6-8 year intense Surgery-Plastic Surgery training ALL Plastic surgeons undergo.

So, you macho Dermatology guys, please, tone down your supremacy claims - you are REALLY embarrassing yourselves.

As regards claims that Plastic surgeons are "behind the times". I would challenge you or any physician to pick a higher achieving, more competitive group than Plastic surgeons. To get to where we are today - we had the BEST grades in College Pre-Med and then among the BEST grades in Medical School. We scored in the top of our residency groups in Surgery training to get into the VERY hard to get into Plastic Surgery Fellowships. Look at the statistics and learn which fellowships are the most competitive in American Graduate Medical Education. Plastic Surgery is at the top of the list. And the competition does not stop after we finish our formal training. Plastic surgeons continue to compete with one another.

As such, Plastic surgeons DO adopt the best technologies in the market - ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN PROVEN SAFE AND EFFECTIVE. Personally, I have been using Botox since 1997, way before many others "discovered" it. I Have used Tumescent liposuction in my Plastic surgery training and ever since. I have used VASER liposuction since 1996. But - I am not convinced YET of some of the dubious claims made by non-Plastic surgeons of the supremacy of SOME of the latest methods on the market.

If my obsession on the safety of my patients and quality of my results are draw-backs and weaknesses, I will gladly accept that label from jealous, competing non-Plastic surgeons.

As regards YOUR question, for your own safety, I would strongly recommend you see several Plastic surgeons (check out and even several Dermatologists and see which one you trust more AFTER having all your questions answered and seeing their Before and After pictures.

I would HIGHLY recommend you allow GYN's to be GYN's and Family Practice doctors to remain Family Practice doctors.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

If you want plastic surgery........See a Plastic Surgeon

Liposuction is much more complicated then it sounds, with complications and revision rates signifigantly underreported. If you're considering surgery, go with the gold standard which would be a fully trained Plastic Surgeon in most instances.

Robert Oliver Jr., MD
Birmingham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Usually dermatologists are more familiar with liposuction and lasers, making them the best choice

Dermatologists and plastic surgeons have very different approaches to liposuction, but without a doubt, any one of these fields are going to be better than going to a newbie to the field who is experimenting with you in order to pay off his laser investment.

As the past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, I can only say that I saw horrible cases during my presidency that were done by non-trained doctors who had a weekend course and were off to practice laser and liposuction. I still see those and am mortified that the laser companies will sell to anyone who has an MD, regardless of their skill and training.

It is a terrible problem in our profession and one that threatens the reputation of the SmartLipo procedure. In my area, there have been several patients who went to a family practitioner who advertised he did hundreds of cases and now are miserable because of bad results and no way to fix them. So, my advice is buyer beware! You only have one chance to do it right - go to a board certified dermatologist who has plenty of experience if you want the tumescent method done along with the Smart Lipo (the best combination in my opinion).

Joel Schlessinger, MD
Omaha Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 40 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.