Plastic Surgery FAQs
How do I choose a surgeon?
It’s important to understand that all surgery – including cosmetic surgery – poses some risk. Therefore, it is important to carefully select a surgeon and surgical setting that minimizes this risk.
One of the best places to start your surgeon selection process is with board certification. However, it is often confusing to try to find a surgeon who is board certified for the procedure you are having performed.
Here are some things you should know about board certification.
- The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) certifies physicians in 24 medical specialties that are recognized by the ABMS. The role of ABMS is to act on behalf of the public to ensure that ABMS certified physicians have met educational and professional standards that warrant board certification.
- More than 100 boards have applied for ABMS approval, but only 24 specialties have been certified – meaning that their training and testing processes merit recognition of ABMS.
- None of the 24 ABMS approved boards includes “cosmetic surgery” in their name. Rather, the cosmetic procedures are buried in the underlying training of the boards. While some of the 24 ABMS approved boards may cover a very limited number of cosmetic surgery procedures, only the American Board of Plastic Surgery covers all cosmetic surgery procedures.
- There are more than 100 unofficial or uncertified “boards” that are merely a collection of physicians that have come together to establish a non-certified specialty board that does not meet the criteria established by the ABMS. These physicians operate under guise of a board, but, according to the ABMS, they do not have the specialty training required to perform the procedures and earn board certification of the ABMS.
- Many of the non-certified board contain “cosmetic surgery” in their names, but they are not recognized by ABMS and their educational, training and professional standards do not meet the standards established by the ABMS for cosmetic procedures.
If the surgeon’s “board certification” is not one of the AMBS boards, you need to know that the ABMS has not approved their education and training for the cosmetic surgical procedure you are considering and you should seriously consider if you want to have your procedure performed by this surgeon.
Another important criterion in surgeon selection is to be sure that the surgeon has hospital privileges to perform the cosmetic procedure in a hospital facility – even if the procedure is being performed in an outpatient facility.
Hospitals provide another form of review to ensure that physicians have the necessary education and training to perform the procedure safely. In order to provide the cosmetic procedure in a licensed facility – hospital or outpatient – the surgeon must have permission to do the same procedures in the hospital.
The easiest way to evaluate the education and training of your surgeon is to select a surgeon who is a member of one or both of the two most prestigious professional societies for practicing plastic surgeons, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS – which represents 97 percent of board certified plastic surgeons) or the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).
This ensures that you have chosen a board certified plastic surgeon who has hospital privileges to perform your procedure and that your surgery will occur in a certified operation room. These are requirements of the societies.
Is the surgical facility safe?
After you have determined that your surgeon is certified, the next step is to find out if the operating facility is also certified. Surgery can be performed in a hospital, independent surgery center or an office-based surgical suite. More than half of all cosmetic surgeries are performed in office-based surgery suites.
If you have chosen a board certified plastic surgeon who is a member of American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) or American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), you can be sure that the facility in which they operate is certified, as required by the professional societies. The only exceptions are minor procedures performed under local anesthesia.
If you have not chosen a board certified cosmetic surgeon who is a member of ASPS or ASAPS, you need to look at the surgery center’s certification. If the surgery is performed in a hospital or independent surgery center, you will be having your surgery in a licensed certified facility. Also, this means that the surgeon has been granted privileges to perform the procedure and that his or her background and training has been reviewed and approved by the medical staff of the facility.
If you are having surgery in an office-based surgery suite and you have not chosen a board certified plastic surgeon who is a member of ASPS or ASAPS, you need to determine if the facility is accredited. The greatest area of risk to you is having surgery in an unaccredited office-based surgery center.
There are three organizations that certify hospitals, surgery centers and office-bases operating suites:
- Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO): Accredits hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and office-based surgery centers
- Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC): Accredits ambulatory surgery centers and office-based surgery centers
- American Association of Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF): Accredits ambulatory surgery centers and office-based surgery centers
What should I expect when I contact the practice about a consult?
The initial phone call to the practice is an excellent opportunity to determine if you want to consider the cosmetic surgeon for your procedure – and it is also the practice’s first opportunity to tell you what’s important to them. Here are some of the things you should look for during the first phone call with the office staff.
- Are they friendly and welcoming?
- Are they trying to meet your needs or just make an appointment? (Is the staff interested in you as an individual? Do they ask questions about you, your reasons for surgery and your timeframe for both appointment and surgery?)
- Are they knowledgeable? Can they answer basic questions about your cosmetic procedure?
- Can they answer basic questions about the surgeon, such as training, specialty and board certification?
- Do they provide a price range for the procedure?
- Do they offer to send information to you about the procedure and the practice? Did they encourage you to call back with any questions on the material you will receive?
- Did they spend sufficient time with you on the phone to make you comfortable and answer your questions or did you feel rushed?
- Would you be comfortable calling this practice back with additional questions? Were you encouraged to call back with questions that might arise following your conversation?
- This is the staff’s only opportunity to make a first impression. How did they do? Do you think you will be able to develop a trusting relationship and have open communication with this practice?
What should I expect during my consultation?
The consultation is your primary opportunity to meet the staff and surgeon in-person to collect information about the procedure and expected results.
The way you are treated during the consultation and how the practice manages this interaction is often an indication of how the practice is run and how they treat their patients before, during and after surgery. The following are some things you should look for during the consultation.
Staff and Practice
- How are you greeted by the staff? Are they welcoming?
- Does the practice appear to be well-run or hectic?
- Does the staff act in a professional manner?
- Are you seen on time or do you have to wait well past your appointment time? If you have to wait, does the staff apologize and explain the reason for the wait? Are you offered the opportunity to reschedule? Are they considerate of your time?
- Is the facility neat, clean and attractive?
Consult with Surgeon
- Is the surgeon friendly and professional? Do you feel the surgeon has time to meet with you or do you feel rushed?
- Is the surgeon interested in you as an individual? Do they ask why you are considering the procedure and about your goal/s and expectation/s for the surgical procedure?
- Does the surgeon discuss alternatives to the procedure you are inquiring about? Are they open to alternatives?
- Does the surgeon talk about risks and expected results? Do they set realistic expectations, such as scar and recovery time? Do their expectations meet your expectations? If not, are they open to discussing the differences and how to meet your expectations?
- Did you have an opportunity to see “before and after” photos? How do the results look to you? Do the results look natural? Did the results shown in the photos meet your expectations for what you are looking for? Are the photos of actual patients of the practice?
- Is the surgeon open to discussing their training and experience with the procedure? Are they open and honest about board certification?
- Does the surgeon discuss recovery and what to expect? Do they discuss how complications are handled and their availability after the procedure?
- Does the surgeon ask if you have any questions and/or concerns? Do they address your questions and/or concerns to your satisfaction?
- Did you to establish a good rapport with the surgeon that will endure throughout the procedure and post-op timeframe?
How many times have they performed this procedure? Is it a common procedure for them?
- Are you given a written fee estimate for the procedure? Does it include multiple written quotes if you discussed alternatives with the surgeon? Was the estimate explained to you? Were all your questions about the quote answered?
- Does the practice offer to check surgical date availability to meet your timeframe?
The consultation is the opportunity for the surgeon and staff to show you why you should allow them to perform your surgical procedure. How did they do? Were they able to establish trust and open communication that make you feel that this is the best practice for you? Did they establish a process for follow-up to ensure that all your questions are answered?