Doing Your Homework
Before setting up a consultation it is a good idea to check the qualifications of your surgeon. There are several factors that will indicate whether a surgeon is highly qualified:
- Training – Residency training after medical school should be rigorous and geared toward producing a surgeon that is specialized in the area that he or she practices (see our Safety Tips page). Accredited plastic surgery residency programs require at least six years of training, with at least three years of dedicated plastic surgery. Many programs (such as the program Dr. McDaniel completed) also have a specialized program during the first three years to better equip graduates in the field of plastic surgery.
- Professional society memberships – Board certification is very important, but not all boards are created equal (see this section of our Safety Tips page, and our blog post on the subject). Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a rigorous process, and its achievement indicates that the surgeon has a high level of training and safety. Membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) has additional safety requirements, including operating only in accredited facilities, which is something that less reputable surgeons often do not do.
- Hospital Privileges – Your surgeon should have admitting privileges to a hospital, as well as a transfer agreement from an outpatient surgical facility, should any problems arise. Good surgeons put the safety of their patients first.
- Accredited Surgical Facility – A private, accredited surgical facility not only means safety, but lower costs and better privacy. Make sure that the operating facility where your procedure will take place (not just the building or hospital where it is located!) is certified by AAAASF, AAAHC, or the Joint Commission.
Learning Your Surgeon's Style
Understanding the “aesthetic” of your surgeon is a good way to figure out whether your goals are the same for your surgery. A couple of helpful ways to do this are:
- Reviews and testimonials – A significant number of good reviews means that the majority of patients are happy. Remember, though, that patients with less-positive opinions are more likely to leave feedback than those who are thrilled, so read carefully.
- Before and after photos – A picture is worth a thousand words. Operations may be done in different styles and different levels of skill. Check out before and after pictures before and at your consult. Absence of any photos should be a warning sign that the surgeon’s results don’t stack up. Read more here about being savvy when it comes to pictures of results.
Checking the Fit
The “doctor-patient relationship” is very important in cosmetic surgery. As a patient you should feel comfortable expressing your goals to your surgeon, as well as your complete medical history. Your “gut feeling” should agree with how the surgeon looks on paper.
- Your consultation and other preoperative appointments should not be rushed–it is critical that your surgeon spend enough time with you to understand your concerns, visualize what you are looking to achieve, and communicate clearly the benefits, risks, expected outcome, and anticipated recovery of the procedure or procedures of interest. If the surgeon delegates most of these tasks to other staff, he or she may avoid dealing with any concerns after surgery as well.
- Consider whether you are personally comfortable with your surgeon. Do they appear to listen to you and give time for questions? Are you given thorough, detailed information about the operation, indicating experience and familiarity with the procedure? Do the staff give the impression of caring about your recovery and answering any questions you have?
- A good surgeon is not arrogant or offended by questions. You should be able to ask about experience, number of procedures performed, complications that have occurred, and any other questions or concerns. If you have not seen enough before and after pictures online before the consultation, ask in the office. Some surgeons will have additional images from patients who have not allowed website use, but have allowed photos to be shown in the office.