18 Plastic Surgery Insider Tips
My Bariatric Life before gastric bypass 2003 and after plastic surgery 2014.
The Lessons I Learned
As a patient and obesity activist, I’ve spent roughly the last 2-years immersed in plastic surgery. Through my plastic surgery journey, as well as the patient journeys I’ve been privileged to be part of, and discussions with surgeons and other professionals in the business who very candidly gave me the inside scoop, much has been learned. Here are some insider tips to help you become a further informed and empowered patient.
- Our bodies are metabolically obese forever. We may have lost our excess weight, eat healthy and exercise, but our bodies are unlike those that have always been normal weight. Our bones may be denser. Our rib cage may be deeper. Our skin may have less elasticity. Therefore, we are more prone to complications.
- You are not "buying a procedure." A body lift can be very different from surgeon to surgeon. That is because surgeons have different techniques. For example, one surgeon may plicate the rectus abdominus muscle while another may plicate the rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus muscles. Butt lifts, thigh lifts, breast lifts, arm lifts all can be executed differently from surgeon to surgeon. Know your options and what you are buying.
- You are "buying a plastic surgeon." It is absolutely critical that you choose a plastic surgeon with deep experience in massive weight-loss patients. These are not “mommy makeovers” that we are getting post-partum. We are correcting much more complex cases.
- There’s a lot of heavy marketing that goes on. From glitzy websites and fancy names for procedures, to spa-like practices and charming bedside manners. This is a highly competitive field, and plastic surgery is a business like any other business. The practice must make money. Don’t be taken in by the hype. Be sure to choose your plastic surgeon based on what matters: training, credentials, experience, and results.
- Some plastic surgeons up-sell procedures. As noted in #4, this is a very competitive field. Some surgeons will recommend procedures that you do not need. Do your research and get at least three consults with different plastic surgeons. Get as many consults as you need until you find the right surgeon for you. FYI: the average income for a plastic surgeon is $400,000.00+ (source Doximity).
- Some practices post fake reviews. Whether they’re posting fake good reviews about themselves or fake bad reviews about competitors, some underhanded tactics go on. It is a good idea to speak to patients personally, even if it is online, and get personal recommendations.
- Some patients post fake reviews, or are overly critical. Review sites don’t have a way to verify if patient reviews are completely accurate. If possible, contact the patient through private messaging and get more information. Another good idea is to look at the surgeon’s cumulative reviews. Do remember that no one is perfect; surgeons are bound to have some negative reviews among the good.
- Some plastic surgeons have bad reviews removed. Many review sites require a court order by a judge to remove reviews and comments. However, some sites don’t have such standards in place and remove negative reviews at the surgeon’s request. This can be very misleading.
- Complications can and do happen. As stated in #1, we are more prone to complications. We also generally need extensive surgeries to restore our bodies. Even the most brilliant plastic surgeon and the most compliant patient can have complications after plastic surgery. Set aside an extra 20% of the cost of your surgery to cover possbible complications or revisions.
- Malpractice suits are for severe damage. Minor and even moderate complications are not uncommon. It takes a lot of time and money to prosecute a medical malpractice case. So attorneys generally take cases in which severe damage was done or the plastic surgeon truly failed to provide the normal standard of care. You may find a lawyer to take your case regardless. It is common for surgeons to face several malpractice suits across their careers. Be aware that the malpractice insurance’s lawyers specialize in defending against claims, so you need a good attorney to represent you. Note that there is a time limit on when you can file.
- You can file a lawsuit in civil court. A civil suit could include intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, civil battery, patient-physician boundary violations, failure to keep accurate records, breach of physician fiduciary trust, and a host of ethics violations. A jury decides the verdict and monetary compensation. Note that there is a time limit on when you can file.
- You can report your surgeon to the authorities. Authorities include the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Medical Association (AMA), the state licensing board, and the state division of consumer affairs. In addition, HIPAA issues can be brought to the Office of Civil Rights and fines assessed by the government. Note that there is a time limit on when you can file, and you will not receive any monetary compensation from these agencies.
- There’s no recourse if your surgeon is out of the country. Not only can you not sue a plastic surgeon outside the US, it also makes it very hard for you to get treatment for your complications. Are you going to fly to see your surgeon for treatment? Note, too, that many U.S. plastic surgeons will not handle complications from a surgeon outside the U.S. And those who do will have to charge you as a new patient, whereas normally complications are treated by your plastic surgeon at no cost for his/her services.
- Writing a negative review is not defamation. Defamation is lying. You may exercise your right to post truthful accounts of what happened to you. You also may share your scathing opinion about the surgeon or staff or facility. Understand that defamation can only be decided by a judge.
- Your results may differ. It is best to ask your plastic surgeon to show you before and afters of patients matching your composition. Look at results from someone the same body type, height, weight and age as you. But even then, your scarring may be very different from someone else who had the same procedure with the same surgeon.
- A plastic surgeon cannot be an expert in everything. Beware of plastic surgeons who list lots of procedures on their website. S/he cannot be an expert in so many procedures. The most important thing you can ask the plastic surgeon for each procedure you are considering is “How many have you done and how often are you doing them?
- Plastic surgeons are people first. Most plastic surgeons that I have met are caring people who want to help patients. Their feelings tend to be sensitive. So try to be respectful to their emotions just as you would a friend or family member when having difficult discussions about your results or complications or practice staff.
- You may experience moments of mood swings. The thought of these big surgeries and long recoveries can scare the daylights out of patients. You may see a side of your personality that you never even knew existed. From heart palpatations to full on panic attacks, you may be on an emotional rollercoaster leading up to surgery. Try to gain support from patients who've already been through it on community sites like BariatricPal, RealSelf and ThinnerTimes.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life