Cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly popular and, in many cases, more accessible and affordable. This has its ups and downs. One the one hand, elective plastic surgery is no longer the exclusive privilege of the rich and famous. On the other hand, its booming popularity often causes people to lose sight of the fact that it is still major surgery, with all the risks that entails. Too many people enter into this without having done their research on the procedure or the surgeon. This is a risky gamble. As an educator who prepares people for careers in health care, I can tell you that even some of my students and colleagues (who should know better) are often guilty of rushing into such procedures without getting all the facts first. They are wowed by the before and after pictures which typically only show the surgeon’s best (hot his or her average) work. Luckily, there have been no major problems (yet), but there are enough horror stories out there that one should pause to ask questions and do some serious thinking before making the final decision.
There are certain questions that every patient should ask of his or her plastic surgeon – questions that should, indeed, be asked of any surgeon. If the answer to any of these questions is not satisfactory, you should postpone the procedure until you find a surgeon who is a better fit for you and your needs. Here is a list of questions that I would ask and advise my loved ones to ask. The list may seem rather long, but if someone is going to be cutting into your body, you have every right to ask them and to expect that they be answered fully and candidly by any prospective surgeon.
- Are you board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)? Note: The certifying organization will vary from country to country.
- How long have you been a plastic surgeon?The longer, the better.
- How many times have you performed this procedure? How many times per year? You want an experienced surgeon.
- What are the potential complications, side effects, and risks of this procedure?
- What is your complication rate with this specific procedure?
- What procedures do you perform most often? Note: If your procedure doesn’t rank among the surgeon’s top three or four, find another surgeon!
- What is your specialty? Have you had any training or done any fellowships beyond board certification? Ideally, your surgeon’s specialty will be the procedure you are looking to have done.
- How many revisions of your own work do you perform in a typical year?The fewer, the better.
- If the results are not satisfactory to me, what is your policy on revisions?
- Where will the surgery be performed?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this surgery?Where?Would it be better for me to have the procedure done in a hospital? Hospital privileges are only offered to highly skilled, highly trained physicians.
- Have you ever been disciplined by the AMA, the ABPS, or the state? Obviously, the answer should be, “No.”
- Do you use a board-certified anesthesiologist or a nurse-anesthetist? If the latter, what are his or her qualifications and experience?
- What type of anesthesia will be used for my surgery?
- When are you required to take your recertification exam? If not required, when do you plan to electively take it?
- Are there any factors that might make me a poor candidate for this procedure? Disreputable surgeons will gloss over these.
- How many repeat patients and referrals do you get in an average year? You want a surgeon whose patients are happy.
- What medications will I be given, and how will you manage post-operative pain?
- How extensive will the scarring be? Where will the scars be located?
- How long should I plan to take off from work, school, etc.?
- When can I expect the swelling and bruising to subside? How long will it be before I look “normal” again?
- What effects will my medications, dietary supplements, and so on, have upon my surgery, anesthesia, or recovery?
- If I have a post-op emergency, what should I do? Will you be the attending physician in the event of an emergency?
- How long can I expect the results to last? No cosmetic surgery lasts forever.
- Can I see before and after photos of patients on whom you have performed the same procedure? After getting the Michigan Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgery that stimulates the skin and make it more softer. Can I see before and after photos of patients who were dissatisfied with the results? An honest and ethical physician will show you the latter as well as the former.
If your plastic surgeon can give good answers to all of these questions, then you are probably in very good hands. Still, you must guard against unrealistic expectations. If you are Quasimodo, the best surgeon in the world cannot transform you into Brad Pitt!