Cheat Sheet

Cosmetic Surgery For Dummies

From Cosmetic Surgery For Dummies by R. Merrel Olesen, MD, Marie B.V. Olesen

If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, ask detailed questions to find a qualified surgeon and facility for the procedure. When meeting with a cosmetic surgeon, look for red flags that suggest that you should consider a different doctor.

Deciding on a Cosmetic Surgeon

Choosing a surgeon is the single most important decision you will make when it comes to cosmetic surgery. Take enormous care going through the selection process, and ask these questions, that a good, dependable surgeon should willingly and openly answer:

  • Are you a board-certified plastic surgeon? (If not, are you board eligible or does your training and certification include the procedure I’m considering?) Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery ensures the highest level of training. Call 866-ASK-ABMS (275-2267) or visit www.abms.org to verify.

  • Do you have privileges to perform my surgical procedure(s) at an accredited hospital? Hospital privileges ensure that other physicians have checked out your doctor for you and determined that he is suitably trained and has demonstrated skill to perform your procedure in their hospital.

  • Are you a member of one or both of the two prestigious societies for plastic surgeons: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and American Society of Plastic Surgeons? These self-governing societies have high standards and do your homework for you regarding your surgeon’s continuing education compliance and facility accreditation.

  • Do you devote a significant portion of your practice to cosmetic surgery? You’re more likely to get the positive surgical result and patient experience you seek when your surgeon focuses on cosmetic surgery.

  • How many times have you performed the procedure I want? How often do you perform it? Do you have before-and-after photos? Generally, the more experience a surgeon has, the more consistent his results. But, you still have to like the results. Before-and-after photos are a great way to find out if you share the surgeon’s aesthetic.

  • What is your patient-education philosophy? You should be a partner in your care. That means you need to find a doctor who is committed to proactive communication and quality educational materials.

  • Will you perform all of my surgery? If anyone else helps you, what will they do? You’re paying for the surgeon to do your surgery — the entire surgery. You should be told who will assist and how. Some procedures, such as breast reduction, require two surgeons, but you’ll be told in advance.

Evaluating the Cosmetic Surgery Facility

Your cosmetic surgery can be performed in a hospital, independent surgery center, or office-based surgery suite. Wherever the surgery is done, make sure it’s a safe, accredited facility, so ask these questions:

  • Is my surgery going to be performed at the hospital or an ambulatory outpatient surgery center? These facilities have to adhere to the highest safety standards. If your surgery will be performed at one of them, you probably don’t need to investigate further.

  • Is my surgery being performed in an office-based surgery suite? If so, you want to know the surgery suite has current accreditation. Ask to see the current license and check out the organization on the Web.

  • What type of anesthesia do you recommend for the procedure(s) I am considering? You need to understand the risks and benefits of each type and why that type is suggested for your particular procedure.

  • What are the qualifications of the person who is providing my anesthesia? Will I be able to meet with my anesthesia provider? Using board-certified MD anesthesiologists or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) is recommended.

When to Consider a Different Cosmetic Surgeon

Searching for a cosmetic surgeon is more manageable when you use a clearly defined system to make the choice — consider all options and weigh them cautiously. If you’re consulting with a cosmetic surgeon and any of the following red-flag situations occur, you might want to consider looking for a different surgeon:

During an appointment or pre-consult

  • The phone isn’t answered promptly or is answered by a machine.

  • No one takes time for your call; the doctor’s staff is abrupt or downright rude.

  • You don’t receive promised information materials before your consultation.

  • You can’t get your questions answered because the staff isn’t knowledgeable or says “the doctor will tell you everything at consult.”

  • You can’t find out a ballpark fee. How can cost be a secret?

  • You find out you won’t be meeting with the surgeon at your consult. Don’t waste your time.

At the consultation

  • You wait too long, which can be a sign that the physician doesn’t respect your time. If this happens, you must decide whether you can add an hour of waiting to every visit. If a physician is running late but apologizes because it’s unusual, then you don’t necessarily need to be concerned.

  • You feel like just a number. Neither the doctor nor his staff is friendly or taking time to get to know you. You feel like you’re known only as the breast aug in Room 3.

  • Your doctor isn’t listening to what bothers you or adds procedures that you’re not sure you want. He’s giving you one-size-fits-all answers when you want a tailor-made surgical plan.

  • The practice can’t show you before-and-after pictures, or if the doctor is in a group, the staff can’t tell which doctor did the surgery pictured.

  • You don’t receive a written fee estimate at consult, or the practice doesn’t have written policies for costs related to secondary surgery.

  • You feel negative energy in the facility. You see examples of disinterest in you by the doctor or staff or notice unrest in their interactions with each other. Staff members contradict the surgeon’s recommendations for you.

  • You feel pressured into scheduling surgery that day. This is a big decision, so you need time for reflection.

When making your decision

  • If something about the technique or recovery is sounding too good to be true, it probably is, especially if other surgeons disagree.

  • The practice does nothing to follow up after your consultation — no phone calls, no letters. Do they care?

  • Your gut is telling you no. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Second consults may help you feel more comfortable. Or continuing until you find the right surgeon and staff may be the best solution.

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