How to pick the right plastic surgeon
Millions of Americans from teens to seniors undergo plastic surgery procedures each year in the United States. Many are pleased with the outcome; however, some are not. Dissatisfaction can be due to unrealistic expectations; however, in many cases, it is due to making a poor choice in the surgeon. I consulted Tracy M. Pfeiffer, MD, MS. She is a New York City plastic surgeon with a special interest in breast surgery. She offers the following tips to safeguard against a bad outcome.
Do your research and be well-informed: This is extremely important. Unfortunately there are unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of patients, especially those who are paying cash for their services. The majority of plastic surgeons are highly ethical. However, patients must be alert to identify those who are not ethical.
Additionally, patients need to be aware of physicians who claim to be plastic surgeons but in fact do not have the necessary training or board certification. Over the years, several plastic surgeons have lost their license to practice medicine, so these people do exist. In addition, there are non-plastic surgeons performing plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments and these practitioners do not necessarily have the necessary training and certifications that are desired. In addition, there are bogus doctors out there. I personally took care of a young woman who was a mother of two from New Jersey. She came to my NYC office for a consultation regarding a ruptured breast implant and the story she told was frightening and a cautionary tale for all patients. She went to a “doctor” in New Jersey for buttock augmentation; the “doctor” had many certificates on the wall, etc. After the procedure, the patient went into respiratory arrest because of embolism of the product that was injected. At the hospital her parents were told she would die. She had the ruptured breast implant because of a right thoracotomy that was performed to make a diagnosis. This information was confirmed with her pulmonologist; miraculously she survived. It turns out the “doctor” was not a licensed doctor at all but was posing as one. This can serve as a warning for all patients to do extensive research before receiving a procedure.
Patients often make the assumption that if the doctor is performing the procedure “in broad daylight” that it must be okay. Nothing is further from the truth. Patients must take steps to ensure that their doctor is properly licensed and board certified in the area of their practice. Patients should talk with their states licensing board and confirm that their doctor has an active license to practice. They can also find out if there have been any malpractice judgments against the doctor. At times, there may be one or two because some doctors will settle nuisance lawsuits, but a series of awards merits further investigation or finding another doctor. The patient must take things one step further and determine if their plastic surgeon is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. No other certification will suffice for body surgery. Doctors may also be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology because this ensures appropriate training, continuing medical education, etc. in plastic surgery of the head and neck. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is NOT equivalent to these boards on any level. Patients should also try to ascertain the specialty of the plastic surgeon. Many surgeons concentrate on certain areas such as the eyes or breasts, and these people perhaps have more comprehensive experience in these areas. Patients can ask the office staff what procedures the doctor usually performs, can look at the doctors website to see what is emphasized, look to see if the doctor regularly attends meetings in a specific specialty, has written or lectured on these areas, etc. Above all, it is imperative that patients do the necessary research before undergoing plastic surgery.
Possible consequences of not being well-informed: See above. Your physical safety is paramount. Next you want to achieve a good aesthetic result that is in-line with your goals and expectations. A good plastic surgeon and her/his staff will be able to communicate with you regarding your goals, discuss the pros and cons of different options, and help you select the right procedures.