Cosmetic Surgery Checklist: Buyer Beware

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Over 10.2 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2005, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you're considering a cosmetic procedure, the following questions can help you choose the right doctor.

  1. What is the doctor's training and certification? Any practicing physician may call him- or herself a cosmetic surgeon or may advertise that he or she performs cosmetic procedures. Only physicians who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery have received years of specialized training in plastic surgery (both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery) and have passed rigorous examinations to demonstrate their competence in the field. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons Web site has a feature to help you locate plastic surgeons who are board certified in the field.
  1. What is the doctor's experience with the particular procedure you are considering? Ask how many times he or she has performed the procedure and if he or she has received specialized training in the particular area. How long has the physician been performing the particular operation? Remember that not all surgeons will be experts in every area. A doctor who is an expert in breast augmentation surgeries may have little experience with nose reshaping.
  1. At which hospital does the doctor perform the procedure? Are you comfortable with being treated in this hospital? Is the hospital accredited?
  1. Does the doctor ask you about your reasons for having the procedure, and are you comfortable talking openly with this doctor? A good cosmetic surgeon will explain all alternatives to the procedure and will not pressure you into making a rapid decision.
  1. Does the doctor answer all your questions clearly and fully? Your doctor should be frank about issues such as recovery time, potential side effects, risks, and realistic expectations for the outcome of the procedure. While "before and after" photos make a convincing statement, be sure to ask if the photos represent typical results.
  1. Are you a good candidate for the procedure you're considering? What will be expected of you following the procedure? Your doctor should openly discuss with you any issues that may affect your personal outcome.
  1. Can you talk to other patients who have had the same procedure performed by this surgeon? Friends can be a good referral source if they have had a similar procedure themselves.
  1. What does the procedure cost? Is payment expected up-front? Most cosmetic procedures are considered elective and are not covered by health insurance plans.

For additional information, please read the Plastic Surgery (Cosmetic Surgery) article.


Last Editorial Review: 5/2/2006