How to Choose Your Cosmetic Surgeon

How to Choose Your Cosmetic Surgeon

Why facial cosmetic surgery is different?

Deciding to undergo cosmetic surgery is optional. It is not like having a gallbladder or appendix removed. In many medical situations, one must act fast with little knowledge about the physician or facility at which they are about to undergo a major procedure. This can be a frightening situation and may lead to later regret. Unfortunately, in these situations you cannot plan for costs. This is a major problem in providing patient-first medical care.

Cosmetic surgery is different. It is neither necessary nor urgent in nature. You should do your research and not be concerned about spending a little money to interview various surgeons. You are creating a permanent change to your face that can affect not only your appearance, but also function. For example, patients contemplating nose surgery must be concerned about breathing well after surgery. Those considering eyelid surgery, must care about proper tear function and eyelid closure after surgery. Patients undergoing facelift and neck lift surgery must think about any changes to how they move their face (e.g. maintaining their natural smile).

Can you become an expert in cosmetic surgery?

No. Surgeons spend many years educating and training to learn their craft. And this does not count the major part of their learning: real-world experience after training. You cannot replicate this degree of knowledge or experience, no matter how many books or online articles you read – even if you had a photographic memory.

Just as you have to trust your real estate agent, insurance broker, hairstylist, etc., you also have to trust the surgeon you select. Why? There is too much information out there and you need a specialist to sort it out for you. While some may have ulterior financial motives, most depend on your successful outcome to maintain or build their business. It is best to do your research before selecting, but then place your trust with the one you choose.

Why a facial specialist?

Most trades are becoming super-specialized. That is because the more our knowledge base grows, the less any one individual can become an expert across many fields. Facial plastic surgery is different from body plastic surgery, and much different from dermatology. Would you ask a landscaper to repair your roof? No. You might get a better price, but it is very unlikely you will get a better product. And this is your face we are talking about.

Facial plastic surgeons spend four years in medical school, five years in residency, and an additional year in fellowship to learn their craft. They know the anatomy of the face and neck far better than any other medical specialty and do most of the facial procedures in the country. Knowledge and experience is a winning combination.

Why are online photos important?

Why do surgeons place before-and-after photos online? Patients can review the photos at a leisurely pace, in their own homes, without any pressure to purchase. They give patients a sense of that surgeon’s aesthetic eye and results, thus allowing them to make an easy decision whether or not to pursue a consultation. It is a great time saver for doctor and patient. Photos also give you an impression of both the impact and limitations of a procedure. A variety of patient photos will give you an even better idea of the range of results. Are your expectations grounded? If not, you may want to reconsider surgery. You’ll save money and heartache. No doctor wants unhappy patients.

However, be especially discriminating when looking at before and after photos. Is there consistency between before-and-after photos in the following:

1) Lighting: look out for poorly-lit befores coupled with well-lit afters.

2) Poses or expressions: smiling and lifting the chin in after facelift photos can be deceptive.

3) Angles: you should always compare before-and-after photos taken at the same angle (e.g. profile to profile)

4) Distance from camera (beware of fisheye distortion that can make before photos look especially bad which occurs if the photo is taken too closely to the subject)

It is not always possible to be 100% consistent as lighting can change at different times of the year and one cannot always suppress the smile of a happy patient. But beware of a pattern of inconsistent photos. A detail-oriented surgeon will also be a detail-oriented photographer.

Why are online reviews important?

Before the emergence of the internet, word-of-mouth was one of the most important ways that a prospective patient found their surgeon. The internet has allowed patients to seek word-of-mouth referrals in a more anonymous manner. However, because one often does not personally know the results and expectations of the reviewer, patients must also be discriminating when reading reviews. Here QUALITY is far more important than QUANTITY. Ask yourself if what you are reading is generic or really gives insight into the surgeon and practice. Does it seem like the individual left a review because they truly felt satisfied in their heart or because they were just getting it done for some secondary gain?

Please also be discriminating regarding negative reviews. Every surgeon who has practiced long enough will have bad reviews. Some patients are never satisfied with anything less than perfection. Bad reviews about a surgeon should not scare you if 1) the vast majority are positive and of high quality and 2) the bad review did not give you an impression that the surgeon was a truly unkind or uncompassionate person.

Why is board certification important?

Surgeons who are board-certified have to prove to other more experienced and successful doctors that they are competent in the knowledge base and they have demonstrated consistent performance. It is meant to create a standard and protect patients. Board certification tells you that the surgeon’s peers feel he or she can represent them in terms of principles and proficiency. That is a huge security blanket for prospective patients. Not all boards are the same, however. If you are looking for a facial plastic surgeon, make sure they are certified with the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

What else should I look for in the surgeon/practice?

Artistry: Does the surgeon seem to have a good eye for facial aesthetics? Are their before-and-after photos consistent with the type of improvement you would be looking for?

Passion: Do you get the sense that he/she generally enjoys being with you and looks forward to helping you? Does the surgeon care about his/her results? Does the surgeon seem happy in general to be doing what he/she does? Is the staff happy?

Compassion: Does the surgeon truly understand how you feel? Does he/she make you feel comfortable? Does he/she seem like the type of doctor who will personally be there for you before and after surgery? Could you envision this surgeon being your doctor for life? Is the staff kind and considerate?

Customization: Does the surgeon have a customized solution for you? You will know if specific details of your procedure are discussed.

In conclusion

This is a big decision. Take your time to make it well. Do your research. Find a trustworthy surgeon, and allow them to guide you through the myriad of options available today.
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