Advice on how to select a great plastic surgeon.
Make sure the surgeon is board-certified
This one, say experts, is a no-brainer. For plastic surgery, you want a doctor who’s certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. It’s simple: The American Board of Medical Specialties’ Web site will tell you if a doctor is board-certified in plastic surgery.
Why is it so important to have a board-certified surgeon? Because legally any doctor is permitted to do any procedure — a psychiatrist could do a breast augmentation. If you use a board-certified plastic surgeon, you know he or she has completed three to five years of training in general surgery and a minimum of two to three years of training in plastic surgery, plus they have to take written and oral tests, according to Dr. Jim Stuzin, chairman-elect of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and assistant clinical professor at the University of Miami.
Board-certified plastic surgeons also have to do continuing medical education and take a written test every 10 years.
Check the surgeon’s record
Many state licensing boards, like California’s, list malpractice judgments, plus any disciplinary actions by the board.
Ask if the surgeon has hospital privileges
Even if you’re having a plastic surgery procedure at an outpatient clinic, it’s worth asking where the doctor has hospital privileges, because hospitals do background checks, says Dr. Rod Rohrich, past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “If they don’t have hospital privileges, that’s a huge red flag,” he says.
Come armed with questions for the doctor
One crucial question for your potential surgeon is how often he or she does the procedure you’re interested in. “If I’m coming to you for a facelift, you’d better do it almost weekly,” says Rohrich, who’s also chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The Arizona Medical Board’s Web site has a list of questions you can print out and bring with you to the doctor’s office. For example, the medical board suggests asking whether the physician will be performing the procedure in its entirety.
Be wary of multiple procedures
“When you bundle procedures, the risk goes up,” says Stuzin, the plastic surgeon in Miami.
The more procedures you have, the more money the doctor makes. Dr. Grant Carlson, a plastic surgeon at Emory University School of Medicine, says an unethical surgeon might suggest a neck lift when someone has come in looking for just for a nose job. “Unfortunately, money is a motivation in some people.”
Perhaps the most valuable advice, Trobaugh says, is to be swayed only by objective information about the surgeon, and not by how the doctor makes you feel. “[Adams] truly sounded like he was going to help me. He seemed like he would be truly concerned about me,” she says.
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“And there are no stupid questions when you’re about to alter yourself in some major way.”