It doesn’t make a difference if you’re having breast enhancement surgery, a Mommy Makeover or an eye lift, all successful plastic surgeries start with the same thing: a well-trained, board-certified surgeon. In addition to appropriate certifications, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a surgeon who is trained and experienced in the surgery you’re interested in, shares a similar sense of aesthetics and with whom you — on a very basic level — get along.
Before You Schedule Your Appointment
“The first thing you want to do is to find out what area his or her training is in,” says Jeffrey Spiegel, MD, chief of the division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “Make sure they are a plastic surgeon — obstetricians, dentists, dermatologists and others may call themselves a surgeon when they have no or little experience in plastic surgery.” Before you even schedule a consultation, check the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s website to find out if your doctor is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (only board-certified surgeons can become members of ASAPS).
Then, go one step further, advises Dr. Spiegel. “If you’re looking to have your nose operated on or a facelift, for example, you’re probably better off going to a facial plastic surgeon than a general surgeon.” That person will have the most experience in that particular surgical specialty. In some cases, a surgeon may have a certificate of training in a specific type of surgery.
At the Appointment
While you don’t have to be best friends with your plastic surgeon, you do want to feel comfortable with the person you’re entrusting your body or face to. “You should have a positive feeling that person you’re going to be working with is a good fit for you,” says Spiegel. In addition to asking about the surgery you want, the doctor should ask why you want the surgery. You also should not feel like you have to hand over a deposit for your surgery on the day of your consultation. “You don’t want to be pressured into signing up for surgery immediately,” Spiegel says. “The consultation shouldn’t feel like a sales pitch.”
To that end, you may want to try a test Spiegel has learned from his patients. “I’ve had potential patients ask me about something that doesn’t bother them to see if I’m honest.” For example, a patient who really wants a nose job may ask about her aesthetically-acceptable chin. “Their thinking is that a dishonest doctor will quickly try to sell them on an additional surgery.”
Be prepared and bring in photographs of what you want your end result to mirror. “When you learn medicine, you learn a huge vocabulary of bones and muscles, but patients don’t know the terms,” says Spiegel. Photos are a helpful way to bridge that communication gap. “I love when patients bring photos, but if you bring in a photo and say this is exactly what I want to look like — it may a problem.” Photos should be thought of as a guide, not a promised end result. You can bring photos of a celebrity or model, or even old photos of yourself. “This can be especially helpful if someone broke his nose in an accident and wants his nose to look like it did before.”
Ask About Past Patients
You should be able to see before and after photos of past patients who had a similar surgery. In addition, you can ask to speak to a former patient. “While some people don’t want to talk about surgery, if a surgeon is busy enough, most likely someone will,” says Spiegel.
Ask About the Operating Room
A surgeon is only as good as his operating room. Ask where the surgery will be taking place and if the operating room is certified, generally either by the state or the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities. You should also know if your surgeon has hospital privileges. This is not only helpful in the event that something major goes wrong during your surgery, but it’s also another safety check, as hospital review committees evaluate a surgeon’s training and competency for specific procedures.
Other Questions to Ask
In addition to the above questions, here are some more you may want to ask in your consultation:
- Am I a good candidate for this surgery? Why or why not?
- What are the risks that something may go wrong, and if it does, how will you handle it?
- What can I expect my recovery to be like, and how many days do you estimate I will have to take off work?
- If I have to have a revision surgery, who is responsible for the cost?
- What is the cost of the surgery?