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How to Find the "Right" Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon

Guidelines for Patients from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) New York, NY (June 16, 2004) — Deceptive advertisements and television programs promising total makeovers often give the impression that deciding to have cosmetic plastic surgery is as simple as buying a new shade of lipstick. The resulting confusion is understandable and alarming, according to Peter Fodor, MD, President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Dr. Fodor reminds prospective patients that undergoing surgery is a serious commitment and, he says, selecting the “right” surgeon and facility are the patient's responsibilities.

“Patients must do their homework when choosing an aesthetic plastic surgeon,” says Dr. Fodor. “There is tremendous confusion about plastic surgery. Television shows trivialize the experience, and advertisements often intentionally mislead. I see patients who come in after a bad experience somewhere else, and they admit they didn't do enough research when they were selecting their surgeon. It's important for people to realize that when the surgeon is properly trained and the facility is accredited, patients are much more likely to be satisfied with the outcome. There is no such thing as ‘risk-free' surgery,” Dr. Fodor adds, “but there are steps patients can take to help ensure their safety and satisfaction when undergoing cosmetic surgery.”

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the only national organization of board-certified plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery, offers ASAPS Guidelines for Patients – How to Find the “Right” Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon:
  • Check Board-Certification: A doctor's board-certification is the best indicator of his or her training in a particular medical or surgical specialty. Look for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), the only Board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify doctors in the specialty of plastic surgery.

  • Check ASAPS Membership: ASAPS membership ensures that a doctor not only is ABPS-certified (or, in Canada, certified in plastic surgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.) but also has significant experience in cosmetic surgery. ASAPS membership is by invitation only.

  • Check Facility Accreditation: Cosmetic surgery can safely be performed in a hospital, a surgicenter or an office-based surgical facility: Current p ublished data show that accredited office-based facilities have a safety record comparable to that of hospital ambulatory surgery settings. However, the majority of office-based surgical facilities are not accredited. Another advantage of selecting an ASAPS member is that all ASAPS surgeons operate in accredited, state-licensed or Medicare-certified facilities.

  • Check Hospital Privileges: Before granting operating privileges, hospital review committees evaluate a surgeon's training and competency for specific procedures. Wherever the surgery will be performed, be sure that the surgeon has operating privileges in an accredited hospital for the same procedure being considered.

  • Check Reliable Sources: Asking a patient's primary care doctor for recommendations is a good place to start, and friends may offer suggestions; but the surgeon's board-certification should always be verified independently by contacting the American Board of Plastic Surgery ( Free referral information to board-certified plastic surgeons with significant experience in cosmetic surgery can be found on . ASAPS' web site also offers extensive information about cosmetic surgical procedures.

  • Check Thoroughness: The consultation is an important opportunity for questions to be asked and answered. It should include a candid discussion of risks as well as benefits of the surgery. A thorough consultation also involves a review of medical history including any existing medical conditions. All these factors help the surgeon to custom-tailor the operation to best meet the needs of each patient.

  • Check Rapport: Even the most experienced surgeon is not the “right” surgeon for every patient. Any successful relationship depends on good communication. Patient satisfaction is enhanced when surgeon and patient candidly discuss goals, agree on realistic expectations, and plan the course of the surgical journey together.

  • Check Experience: Experienced aesthetic plastic surgeons generally perform a wide range of cosmetic surgeries on a regular basis. Patients should ask about the surgeon's experience with the particular procedure being considered. If considering a “new” technique or technology, patients should inquire whether results substantiating safety and effectiveness have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • Check Follow-up Care: Good surgical care does not end with the surgery. Patients should inquire about follow-up visits and about the doctor's policies should surgical revisions be necessary.

  • Check Cost: National averages for surgeons' fees can be found on . Fees may vary considerably depending on geographic region, surgeon experience and individual patient factors. Not all patients can be treated with the same technique, and the complexity and length of surgery affect cost. Patients should note that cosmetic surgery usually is not covered by insurance.
“Patient safety and satisfaction are the plastic surgeon's goals,” says Dr. Fodor, adding that this requires forging a partnership with the patient. He emphasizes that patients must assume certain responsibilities as part of that relationship. “People must choose their doctor carefully and ask questions to verify training and experience. Anyone with an ‘MD' can be called a surgeon and, in fact, some dentists now want to perform cosmetic surgeries that are outside their scope of practice,” he explains.

“ASAPS, as the authoritative source for cosmetic surgery information, can help people sort out the facts,” says Dr. Fodor. “For that purpose, we develop a variety of educational material for our web site, . But it is up to the public to use that information and not be dazzled by false promises from unreliable sources.” And Dr. Fodor has this advice about cost: “Cost is always a factor, but it should never be the deciding factor in cosmetic surgery. Safety and quality are always the key issues.”

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