Choosing a Plastic Surgeon
How to choose a qualified
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.
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
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.
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.
not be afraid to ask questions. There are no trivial or dumb
questions, and it is better to ask than to assume.