Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

How to choose a qualified Plastic Surgeon

Step 1. Your first goal is to develop a list of good candidates.
Ask friends, your physicians, nurses, and respected hospitals in your community. You probably should not decide on the surgeon from one referral alone. Our society, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), represents over 95% of the Board Certified Plastic Surgeons in the United States and can be reached at 1-800-635-0635 for referrals to plastic surgeons in your area.

Step 2. You should now check the credentials of the plastic surgeons
                   on your list.

Training: Has the surgeon completed an accredited residency program in plastic surgery? Such a program includes two or three years of intensive training in the full spectrum of reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.

Board certification: While everyone has heard the phrase “board-certification,” few people actually understand its meaning. A plastic surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) has graduated from an accredited medical school and completed at least 5 years of additional residency – usually three years of general surgery or more, and two or more years of plastic surgery. In addition, to be certified by the ABPS, a doctor must also practice plastic surgery for two years and pass comprehensive written and oral exams. Physicians can only indicate their board certification status in specialties officially recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialists by law, as these are the only specialties that have met the rigorous requirements to adequately prepare individuals for practice in these respective specialties. Physicians who claim board certification to unrecognized boards are frequently in violation of the law and might not be properly trained. One such unrecognized board is the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.

Hospital privileges: Even if your surgery will be performed in the doctor’s own surgical facility, he or she should have privileges to perform that procedure at an accredited hospital in your community. It means that the surgeon is subject to approval by a body of his or her peers. Call the hospital to make sure.

Experience: Although there’s no magic number (of years or procedures) that defines “experience,” you should feel comfortable that the surgeon you choose is well versed and up-to-date in the procedure you’re considering.

Professional societies: Physicians may belong to a wide array of professional societies, but – as with board certification – some are more meaningful than others. If a physician tells you he or she belongs to a particular society, get the exact name and call to determine the requirements for membership. Of the societies representing plastic surgeons, one of the most demanding – and by far the largest – is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Its members must be certified by the ABPS and reviewed by their peers. They must also participate in continuing education and adhere to a strict code of ethics.

Step 3. The consultation/interview.

If you’ve narrowed your list down to two or three reputable surgeons, you might want to visit all of them for an initial consultation. That way you can compare their opinions on the type of surgery you should have, fees, risks, alternatives, and your professional relationship with the doctor. You can also determine if the doctor will be easily available after surgery in case there are problems.

You should not be afraid to ask questions. There are no trivial or dumb questions, and it is better to ask than to assume.

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