Choosing the right practitioner

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When you have made the very difficult and personal decision to have cosmetic surgery, how do you pick the person who you are going to trust to do your procedures? There are so many practitioners who advertise their services, promising eternal youth and beauty…. but are these promises realistic and who is the best person to trust with this very important decision?

Given the variety of procedures and services that exist today in the world of cosmetic medicine, it is understandably confusing to someone who is not immersed in the industry on a daily basis. So that’s why I am here!! I am going to give you some helpful tips that will help guide you through this choice with some fail safe things to do and to look for when you are deciding on getting a cosmetic procedure.

The first MOST IMPORTANT thing for you to do is make sure that the doctor that you choose has the right “Credentials”!! Did he or she go to school and train to do what he/she is advertising??

Believe it or not, there is loose control over which doctors practice which kind of procedures and you can have people doing facelifts and other really complex surgical procedures when they have never done a plastic surgery residency. I know!!! It seems insane!!!! But it is true…. so how do you know who has the right training?? How do you know a dermatologist is not doing your facelift??

The answer to this is to make sure that your doctor is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery or the American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery. These are THE ONLY LEGITIMATE BOARD CERTIFICATIONS!!! Other “boards” have popped up over the years to attempt to legitimize other non-surgeons, but they are not real. These phony boards do not hold practitioners to the high standards that the American board of subspecialties does. When you find a doctor who is Board certified by the American Board of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, or the American Board of Facial plastic surgery, their name will be associated with their respective symbol.

This symbol means that this doctor has been through a fully accredited plastic surgery or facial plastic surgery residency program (i.e. they have been trained by leaders in the field of plastic surgery.) Once they have gotten the seal of approval from their mentors, they go through two years of intense testing, during which time, their work is scrutinized by their peers and mentors. About 60-70% of surgeons who have done full plastic surgery residencies will pass these exams on their first attempt…. they are no joke!!! This is all so that you, as a consumer, can see that symbol and know that this is someone who has been well trained!! If there is no symbol… walk away.

*** NOTE: Board Certified Cosmetic surgeon is not an accredited board. This may be a dermatologist posing as a plastic surgeon!!! Beware! ****

OK….so now we have established that at the very baseline, you need to have a doctor who is board certified by a real board…. there are other things that you need to figure out. Let’s make a list of the things that I think are important, and I can give you suggestions about how I would go about figuring them out.

  • Do you like the work that they do?
  • Are they honest about what they CAN do?
  • Do they do a lot of the procedure that you are getting?
  • Do you like and trust them as a person?

So for the first question, Do you like the work that they do? There are two ways to figure this out.

Listen to your friends!! Have you had a friend or two who have had cosmetic plastic surgery? Were they satisfied with the experience that they had? Do you think they look good? If you have a friend like that, start by asking them who they had for their procedure. This is a great place to start. Go have a consultation with that doctor (as long as they are board certified!)

When you are in the consultation ask to see pictures of other patients who this surgeon has treated. Before and after pictures are the best way that you can tell if you agree with the “aesthetic” that this doctor has. Make sure think that the work this surgeon does looks good to you. There is a lot of subjectivity to plastic surgery so it is important that you share the same taste.

Second Question: Are they honest about what they CAN do?

Beware of the “snake oil salesman”! There are certain things that can be achieved with current technologies and surgical procedures and there are certain things that just are not realistic. Someone who tells you that there is no “downtime” but you will have a perfect result without any chance of having a problem is not being realistic.

First of all, if there really is NO downtime, there is probably no or very little result. We certainly want to have minimal down time and limit the amount of trauma that we cause, but when you have a surgical intervention, there is going to be some inflammation, bruising, swelling….something… may be different in different people, but pretty much everyone will have to go through a period of healing before they see their results.

Even with the most minimally invasive procedures, like fillers and Botox, there is a chance that you can have some bruising and swelling. In fact, most people look their best a week or two after these procedures and beyond. The person who is telling you that there is no down time, is possibly not doing enough, or just not being very honest.

The way that you can tell that your doctor can do what he/she says they can do? Well, that brings us right back to pictures. Look at the before and after pictures that your doctor has. If you like what he/she has delivered to other people, chances are you will like your own results.

Another question to ask is HOW MUCH PRACTICE has this doctor had doing the procedure that I want?

Not all plastic surgeons are created equally. Plastic surgery is actually a vast and varied field of surgical medicine. There are some plastic surgeons who dedicate their entire careers to doing breast reconstruction and those who do only cosmetic surgery. Some do hundreds of nose jobs, and others have become proficient at eyelid surgery or facelifts.

If you are having a procedure done, ask your surgeon how many they have done. They may not know the number exactly. In fact, it is probably better if they have done so many that they have lost count. The point is, it is probably better if they have done a whole lot of or specialize in the surgery you are having.

There are very few surgeons who do only one operation, and that wouldn’t be good either, but you really don’t want a surgeon who does 85% of his cases as breast reconstruction coming in to do your facelift. He may know “how” to do a facelift, but he hasn’t done it so many times that he understands the nuances that really make it a great job.

This brings us right back to pictures. If your surgeon has lots of pictures with results that look good to you, then you can be pretty sure you have a winner.

Finally, it would also be nice if you like the person who is doing your surgery. It is not the absolute “be all to end all”. I have known some really talented surgeons who have lacked something in the personality department…but it is a nice bonus if this is a person with whom you feel comfortable.

Surgery and cosmetic medicine is not completely free of risk, and if you happen to have a problem, it does help to be work through these problems with someone who you feel comfortable talking to and seeing on a regular basis.

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