Inadequate training and poor judgment account for a disproportionate number of complications and unsatisfactory results that occur from cosmetic surgery procedures. With so many different types of doctors doing cosmetic surgery, how can one make a safe choice? Historically, the use of the terms ‘board-certified’ and ‘specializing in’ were enough to demonstrate a doctor’s expertise, but today that is not enough.
Are they board-certified in plastic surgery or another specialty? Many new cosmetic surgeons are board-certified but not in plastic surgery. Their board certification may be in General Surgery, Dermatology, Oral Surgery or Ob-Gyn to name a few. Some may even have an additional board-certification in cosmetic surgery. But this self-created board should not be assumed to be equivalent to those certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. There is a significant difference between board-certified plastic surgeons and board-certified cosmetic surgeons that makes them not equivalent at all.
How experienced in doing your procedures of interest is the doctor? This can be a hard piece of information that is not easy to ascertain. Certainly asking the doctor is an obvious way to learn how many the doctor does, but that is not the exclusive source I would use. Look at their websites and see how many before and afters of the procedure are posted. Ask for before and after photographic results and to talk to some more recent patients. (done in the past 3 to 6 months) Word of mouth still remains as a good method of recommendation. Willingness to easily and quickly divulge this information is a good sign. Hesitancy or avoidance of doing so would be of concern.
Hospitals are obviously certified and have to meet highs standards of care and comply with stringent regulations. Surgery centers can be quite different and you want to have your surgery in one that has been accredited by either the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF), the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). This accreditation and a state license to operate means the facility adheres to safe operating conditions. Doctor’s office are fine for minor surgery but most are not accredited for more significant surgeries and any anesthesia that may be needed.
The cost of cosmetic surgery is always of concern and no one wants to overpay for their procedure(s). But the cost of cosmetic surgeries is influenced by market factors just like any other retail business. This makes a fairly consistent price range for procedures in any given geographic region. If after getting several consultations one price is considerably lower than another, the question should be why. Where are the costs being reduced to offer such a lower price? This is what makes the whole concept of Groupon and other discount programs for cosmetic surgery so unnerving.
Dr. Barry Eppley