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Check the surgeon's credentials. Many physicians today perform plastic and cosmetic surgery, including plastic surgeons, dermatologists, otolaryngologists, and ophthalmologists. One way to check a doctor's credentials is to ask if he or she is "board certified" by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify doctors in the specialty of plastic surgery. You can call ABPS at (215) 587-9322 or check your doctor's credentials online.
There is another board, the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery in Lansing, Illinois, which certifies cosmetic surgeons. They can be reached at 708-474-7200.
Checking certification credentials is only the first step a consumer should take before selecting a doctor. Research any doctor's qualifications thoroughly to determine his or her abilities to perform the specific procedure in which you are interested. Following are further steps you can take to ensure that the doctor is qualified.
Ask about a doctor's hospital privileges. Some procedures can be safely performed in a doctor's office or outpatient surgical facility. But it's important to find out if the doctor has operating privileges at an accredited hospital for the same procedure you are interested in. The reason: Hospitals only grant privileges to surgeons after a committee reviews their training and competency to perform certain procedures. If the doctor doesn't have these privileges, go elsewhere.
Is the surgical facility accredited? The surgical facility should either be accredited by a national or state-recognized accrediting organization, state licensed, or Medicare certified. Check with one of the following organizations:
American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) at 847-949-6058.
Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) at 847-853-6060.
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) at 630-792-5000.
* Check with individual states for licensing information.
Interview the doctor. During your consultation, ask the following questions:
What experience does the doctor have in performing this procedure? How many has the doctor performed? How many has he or she done this year? Ask what training he or she has completed, particularly in new techniques. Ask to see certificates of training.
What are the possible risks? Every surgical procedure carries risks. Find out what they are, how often they occur, and how they would be handled if they do occur. If the doctor says the procedure is risk-free, get another opinion.
Are you a good candidate for the procedure? Make sure the doctor receives your full medical history and a record of the medications you take. Age and certain health conditions can be limiting factors.
What will the recovery be like? How long should the recovery period last? What activities are restricted? When should you be able to return to work or other activities?
How much will the surgery cost? Insurance companies typically do not cover the cost of cosmetic surgery. Payment is usually required in advance. Find out the total cost, including surgeon's fees, hospital charges, anesthesia, and any other fees associated with the surgery. Fees vary widely by physician, procedure, region, and surgical facility.
What is the doctor's policy on surgical revisions? Some cases require a second operation to achieve desired results. Find out about any costs for which you may be responsible.
Can you speak with other patients who have had the procedure? Don't be afraid to ask for referrals. Many patients are happy to share their experiences and will let the doctor know if they are willing to do so.
Can you see "before-and-after" photos of the doctor's patients?
Do you feel comfortable with your doctor? Talk frankly with your doctor about your expectations. A good doctor-patient relationship is one of the keys to your satisfaction. You and your doctor should agree on the desired goals and discuss what is realistic for you to expect. If your doctor pressures you into a procedure that you hadn't planned on or presents you with a shopping list of cosmetic procedures to choose from, it might be time to shop for another doctor.