Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

If you wish to further explore breast reduction surgery, it’s now time to choose a plastic surgeon
to perform your procedure. You may already know about the plastic surgeon whom you wish to
perform your surgery. If you don’t have a surgeon in mind, you’ll need to do some searching.
Finding a competent plastic surgeon with whom you feel comfortable is essential to achieving your
desired results.

It’s important to keep two things in mind as you embark on your
quest for the ideal plastic surgeon—a surgeon’s competence to deliver
the results you are looking for and his or her ability to make you feel
comfortable throughout the entire process. Thoroughly researching a
surgeon’s qualifications is key, but don’t forget to follow your instincts
as you search for the right plastic surgeon for you.

Finding a Plastic Surgeon
You will need to find a surgeon who is experienced in breast
surgery. In fact, breast surgery should be a significant part of the
surgeon’s practice, not just a procedure that he or she performs from
time to time. There are several ways to find a plastic surgeon.

Referrals
If you have any friends who have undergone breast surgery, ask them
if they are pleased with their results. If they are, inquire about what
they appreciated, specifically, about the process. Then, ask them who
performed their operations.

You may also be able to get referrals from your general practitioner
or gynecologist. These physicians may know several local plastic
surgeons, and they may have even seen their work in patients they
have in common.

Internet Searches
If you’re interested in doing some online research, one of the best
web sites for obtaining overall information about plastic surgery
procedures and board-certified plastic surgeons is that of the
American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Another resource is
PlasticSurgery.com, which provides viewers with local plastic surgeon
referrals and links to pertinent sites.

Training and Experience of the Plastic Surgeon
For most of us, trying to understand the qualifications and
credentials of plastic surgeons is a bit confusing. Here’s an overview of
the process of training and education. Plastic surgery requires years of
specialized training, starting with medical school. To become a plastic
surgeon, the surgeon must first have graduated from medical school,
and have a license in the state to practice medicine. The medical
school should be "accredited," which means that the school meets
standards set by a national authority for medical education programs.

The key to choosing a
plastic surgeon is communication,
establishing a good
rapport. Then, a patient
can then feel comfortable
and be confident that her
surgeon understands her
problem and can lead her
in the right direction.
— Alain Polynice, M.D

Once graduated from medical school, a plastic surgeon must
complete a minimum of six to seven years of additional training in ahospital, where he or she is performing surgery. This is often a
combination of general and plastic surgery. This period of training is
called a residency. So, by the time a surgeon goes into practice, he or
she has had plenty of real, hands-on experience working side by side
with senior surgeons.

A plastic surgeon’s training is ongoing. Surgeons are required to
take continuing medical education courses to keep their certification
up to date.

Board Certification: What Does It Mean?
Perhaps you have heard that it is important to go to a plastic
surgeon who is "board-certified." What does this mean? Being board
certified means that after the surgeon has completed residency training,
he or she has passed a rigorous written exam, which is followed by
an oral exam. These tests are given by a recognized board of senior
physicians who oversee the plastic surgery specialty. Once the surgeon
has passed these tests, board certification is granted. Any plastic
surgeon you consider should be certified by the American Board of
Surgery as well as the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Once certified, a surgeon must continually update his or her
credentials in order to be re-certified. This re-certification is usually
required every ten years. Throughout this period, the surgeon will have
received additional training annually through continuing education
coursework.

Board certification is a completely voluntary process. Surgeons
are not required to be certified to perform surgery; however, if you
want peace of mind knowing that your plastic surgeon meets important
requirements set by an independent board, choose a board certified one. You can verify a surgeon’s certification at the American Board of
Surgery website at www.abms.org.

Make sure you choose a
surgeon who has a good
bedside manner. Ask a lot
of questions so that you
feel comfortable going into
the procedure.
— Brenda, 33

Finally, just like any other doctor, your surgeon needs to be
licensed to practice medicine in your state. There’s nothing voluntary
about licensing—it’s required. Your surgeon must have a valid, current
license issued by the state’s medical licensing board in order to legally
practice in the state. Licensing criteria differ slightly from one state to
another. If you need further information about a surgeon’s licensure,
you may check with your state’s medical board to learn more about
licensing and license verification.

Experience of the Plastic Surgeon
Most plastic surgeons you’ll talk to will be well trained and
certified. But what about their level of experience? You’ll want to
select a surgeon who has experience with the breast surgery
procedures you’re considering.

So, how much experience should the surgeon have? We often
hear that it’s important to ask a surgeon how many procedures, like
the ones you’re considering, he or she has performed. But, it may
be difficult for you to know what a "right" answer is. Is it 5 such
procedures a year or is it 50? To have an appropriate level of
experience, Most plastic surgeons would recommend that the surgeon
you choose be completing at least several surgical procedures, like the
one you’re planning, several times a month on a regular basis.

Finally, a surgeon who is experienced will know how to select the
right patients for cosmetic breast surgery. Not all women are good
candidates when they first visit a plastic surgery, but perhaps they will
be later on. An experienced plastic surgeon will know who should and
who shouldn’t have the surgery.

Additional Methods to Check Surgeon Credibility
Another way to ensure that your potential plastic surgeon is well
qualified is to call your state’s medical board or visit their web site. This
information is in the public domain, so you’ll be able to access any
information about being disciplined for inappropriate practices.
Be aware that a search of your state’s records, would not provide information
about any other state in which a surgeon may have practiced.

If you’d like to carry your research one step farther, you could
even contact the hospital where the surgeon you’re considering
practices. The hospital can give you a general sense of a surgeon’s
performance and reputation.

Rapport with Your Plastic Surgeon
It is important to feel comfortable with the plastic surgeon who
will perform your surgery. Once you have met with a plastic surgeon,
ask yourself how you felt about the meeting. This is just as essential
as diligently asking questions about the surgical procedure you are
considering. Before you make your final decision, ask yourself the
following questions:

  • Is the surgeon someone with whom I feel comfortable?
  • Did he or she answer all of my questions about the surgery
    process?
  • Am I confident that I could call my surgeon with any questions
    that I remember later?
  • Does this surgeon respond sensitively to my needs and take my
    goals seriously?
  • Does he or she take enough time to talk with me until I fully
    understand the details of my procedure?
  • Do I feel safe in the hands of this surgeon?
  • Is this surgeon someone whom I trust?

Questions to Ask
the Surgeon

What are your medical
credentials?

  • Are you board-certified?
  • How many breast reduction
    procedures have you
    performed?
  • Have any complications
    occurred during or after
    procedures you’ve performed?
  • May I talk to at least one of
    your patients who has had this
    procedure?
  • Where will the operation be
    performed?
  • Is your surgery facility
    accredited?

Surgical Center Accreditation
In addition to checking a surgeon’s credentials, it’s important
to assess the safety of the location where he or she performs breast
surgery procedures. Some plastic surgeons perform their surgeries in
hospitals, in which case, you should be in a well-staffed, safely operated
environment. Hospitals have a certain level of standards they must
meet periodically to continue to provide services to patients. If,
however, your surgeon performs breast surgery procedures out of his
or her own surgical center, a closer look is warranted.

Surgical centers may or may not have received accreditation. Two
agencies—the American Association of Accredited Ambulatory
Surgical Facilities (AAAASF) and the Accreditation Association for
Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)—are responsible for inspecting surgical
centers and ensuring that they meet the highest standards of
safety for patients. This means that all equipment, supplies, and procedures
must meet or surpass the high expectations of these two
accrediting agencies.

It’s not required that surgical centers be accredited; however,
those that are accredited operate more safely than those that are not.
A surgical center that has been accredited has met the same government
requirements regarding safety procedures, and sterilization that hospitals
must meet. Your surgeon’s surgical center should be accredited by at
least one of the accrediting organizations.

Table of Contents
Previous: Chapter 1. Contemplating Breast Reduction Surgery
Next: Chapter 3. Your Consultation

*Patient Results May Vary
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