How to Choose a Cosmetic Surgeon

Health Writer
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So you are considering cosmetic surgery. You want to enhance your appearance or look younger. Today there are a number of different options. You can choose from the most popular surgeries, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons including facelift, buttock lift, nose reconstruction, and tummy tuck or go the more non-invasive path of Botox, tissue fillers, chemical peels, or microdermabrasion. Or you can choose to go all out and talk with a surgeon to design your own surgery, based on what you want to change.

Before you begin or make any decisions, think about who is performing the procedure. Each state has its own regulations about who can perform what procedures and who is eligible for supervising. For example, different types of physicians, such as M.D., D.O., D.D.S., or D.M.D., might all be allowed to perform cosmetic procedures, and a registered nurse might be able to perform Botox injections but only if a licensed medical doctor is on site. The Federation of State Medical Boards provides a directory of medical and osteopathic boards. Check with the medical board in your state to not only make sure your medical provider is licensed to practice medicine, but has the proper licenses to perform the specific procedure.

Just because a physician is allowed to perform a procedure according to state law, doesn’t mean they should.

You probably don’t want your family doctor performing a nose reconstruction or your cardiologist performing a facelift. You want to know that the physician you choose is properly licensed, trained, and experienced to either perform the service or supervise the treatment — this means they are onsite and immediately available to handle potential complications.

What should you look for when choosing a medical provider for cosmetic procedures?

Check for board certification. Several boards certify that a doctor has received training and experience in these types of surgery:

Besides your surgeon’s qualifications, you’ll want to make sure the facility is accredited and if you require an anesthesiologist, ask for their qualifications as well.

Ask about specialized training. Each specialty comes with its own training. It is important to note that plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are not the same. Plastic surgeons receive training on reconstruction due to injury or birth defects. Cosmetic surgeons receive training on procedures to enhance the physical appearance for cosmetic reasons. Dermatologists have training in skin disorders and conditions. Despite the different specialties, these professionals may have received specialty training in different types of cosmetic surgery. Ask the physician to explain what training they have received.

Experience is important. Even when a doctor has received specialized training, you probably won’t feel comfortable being their first tummy-tuck patient. Ask questions about the doctor’s experience. How often do they do this type of surgery? How many have they done?

Ask where the doctor has hospital privileges. If you are having surgery at an outpatient facility, it is important to know that if there are complications, your doctor can quickly get you to the hospital, but just as important, having hospital privileges means your doctor has gone through background checks.

Check for complaints and malpractice judgments. Your state licensing board might have information on any malpractice judgments against doctors. In addition, you can check online for reviews and check with the Better Business Bureau. Doing your homework first can help make sure you receive the best possible outcome.

Talk to a few doctors. It’s time consuming, but you might want to make appointments with several doctors and compare qualifications, experience, and professionalism. While you want to make your decision on objective information, it’s also valuable to consider how you will be treated, whether the office staff is friendly and helpful, and whether you received clear information on fees.

For More Information:

Cosmetic Surgery: Not A Source For Shame

First plastic surgery: Oct. 23, 1814

Not Botox: Smoothing Away the Wrinkles


Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.