Choosing a Plastic Surgeon
How does a prospective patient choose their plastic surgeon? Every day I get patients asking me this very question. While ten years ago it was enough to confirm your surgeon was “board-certified”, unfortunately there are now too many improperly trained physicians masquerading as plastic surgeons that this is no longer sufficient. So what should a prospective patient look for in their plastic surgeon?
- The most important: Make sure your plastic surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. You can easily go to the board’s website at www.abplsurg.org. Most plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, so going to their website is another good option: www.plasticsurgery.org. Surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery must undergo at least 3 years of general surgery training, 2 years of plastic surgery training, pass comprehensive written and oral examinations, and adhere to a strict code of medical ethics. No other certifying board requires their surgeons to meet standards as stringent as these. That’s why everyone says it is important to choose a “board-certified plastic surgeon.”
- A “cosmetic surgeon” is different from a “plastic surgeon.” Board certified cosmetic surgeons can be dermatologists, ENT’s, or even Ob-Gyn’s. You wouldn’t want a plastic surgeon to remove your tonsils, so would you want your ENT to perform your breast augmentation? Some of the most well-known breast augmentation surgeons in the Metro Detroit area (via millions of dollars in advertising) are not board-certified plastic surgeons, although most patients think they are. I’ve treated numerous botched surgeries from other surgeons in the area where the patients have found out only afterwards that their original surgeon was not a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and actually had no formal breast surgery training. It’s very disturbing.
- What about other physicians? Unfortunately, any physician can call himself or herself a plastic surgeon or even “board-certified,” but the question should always be “board-certified” by who? Being board-certified by the Board of Internal Medicine does not make someone qualified to perform cosmetic procedures. Be wary of those who are certified by any board except the American Board of Plastic Surgery, as designation by other boards can be meaningless when considering plastic surgery.
- Make sure your plastic surgeon spends time during the consultation explaining the surgery to you. The amount of time your surgeon spends with you before surgery is indicative of the time he or she spends performing the surgery and taking care of you afterwards. I try to spend at least 30-45 minutes with each new patient, and see them again at least 1-2 times before their surgery to make sure they understand the surgery well.
- Avoid bargain-basement cosmetic surgery centers. These are often run by cut-throat business people who know nothing about plastic surgery or medicine in general. They often hire surgeons who are retired or poorly trained and pay them by the hour to operate on unsuspecting people. Many of these surgeons are “training” to become cosmetic surgeons, and their patients are their guinea pigs. It’s akin to going to a cosmetology school for a haircut, however in this case the results don’t grow out after a few weeks, but last you the rest of your life. In plastic surgery, as in life, you usually get what you pay for.
- Closely examine the surgeon’s before and after photos. Be wary if your surgeon does not have his or her own photos to show you.
- Ask around.
Above all, make sure you get a good feeling from your plastic surgeon. If you don’t feel comfortable with the first surgeon you meet, find another. Plastic surgery is a big deal, so take your time in finding whoever is the best surgeon for you. I tell all my patients, “You never regret surgery you didn’t do. You only regret the surgery you did but shouldn’t have done.”
Dr. Anthony Youn