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01-11-11 | Posted by


Choosing the right doctor who is licensed, qualified and experienced for any surgical procedure you are considering is of paramount importance.

Unfortunately, as Vibrant Nation health and beauty expert Wendy Lewis warns in Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You, there are people with little or no medical training who attempt to perform cosmetic procedures, often with devastating results. There are also physicians who, although licensed, are not properly trained in cosmetic procedures and techniques, but are offering them nonetheless.

How is this possible? According to Wendy Lewis:

Physicians are licensed to practice medicine by individual states, not by the federal government.

Furthermore, in any state a licensed doctor can go out and practice any medical specialty he or she chooses.

Once someone is licensed as a physician, it is solely their professional judgment and ethics that control what procedures they perform on their patients, at least within their own office or clinic. Hospitals provide supervision of the care offered by physicians within their walls, reviewing credentials and approving the procedures a physician may perform — but only within the hospital. However, the majority of cosmetic procedures are offered outside of a hospital, so it is up to the physician to exercise appropriate professional judgment.

It is left to the consumer to be certain the physician is appropriately trained.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to ensure that the doctor we choose to perform our procedure is the right one for us. Below, nationally recognized aesthetics expert Wendy Lewis shares her tips from Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You.

You don’t have to walk into the surgeon’s office blindly. Learn what to expect before and after choosing plastic surgery in the Vibrant Nation Health Guide, Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You.

9 Tips for Choosing the Right Cosmetic Surgeon

Ask friends and trusted doctors for recommendations.

According to Wendy Lewis, women who are considering cosmetic surgery should start their search for a good plastic surgeon by asking friends and trusted doctors if they can recommend one who specializes in the particular cosmetic procedure that interests you — say, facelifts or liposuction. (Remember to carefully vet even highly recommended surgeons before you sign on the dotted line.)

Pay attention to bad work, too.

Negative recommendations (i.e. surgeons to avoid) can be as valuable as positive ones. VN blogger Peggy@ScreamsofConsciousness.com, who once dated a top cosmetic surgeon, passes along his advice: “Do you know someone who has obviously had too much ‘air brushing’ done, or lips that would qualify for a tribe featured in National Geographic? Find out who did her work — and then scratch her doctor’s name off your list.”

Ask your hair stylist.

Sometimes we have to get creative in obtaining the inside scoop. Unconventional sources can be the most revealing. Peggy@ScreamsofConsciousness says, “Hairdressers see everything. Not only will they tell you the unvarnished truth, they know who does the most natural work. That’s what you want — the doctor who does work that you cannot see on someone else. A hairdresser always sees the incisions no matter how hidden they are from the rest of us. A client will tell her hairdresser all about her experience, even when the rest of us have no idea.”

Confirm that the cosmetic surgeon has extensive experience in the particular procedure you want.

The main specialties of physicians performing cosmetic procedures are: Plastic Surgery, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, and Maxillofacial Surgery. In addition, physicians from other disciplines perform cosmetic surgery and treatments, as well. These include Osteopathic Medicine, Dentistry, Gynecology, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, among others.

But bear in mind that a surgeon’s specialty doesn’t guarantee that he or she has extensive experience in the specific procedure that interests you. That’s why Wendy Lewis, author of the Vibrant Nation Health & Beauty Guide Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You, suggests you call the surgeon’s office and ask which procedures are most performed by that doctor. He or she could be the best plastic surgeon anywhere, but if the procedure you are interested in isn’t a specialty (that is, listed in the top three procedures for that office), you’ll want to keep looking.

Verify the surgeon’s professional credentials.

You might be astonished to learn that, in most states, any medical doctor can perform plastic surgery without board certification. That’s why it’s so important to verify the professional credentials of any doctor you’re considering having perform your surgery, and be very wary of physicians whose credentials do not meet the minimum standards.

What should you look for?

Wendy Lewis recommends choosing a surgeon who is ‘certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.'” That’s because of the 24 specialty boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), only the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certifies in the full spectrum of the specialty of plastic surgery of the entire body. That is, plastic and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck, trunk and extremities.

If a surgeon is “ABPS-certified,” you know that he or she:

Graduated from an accredited medical school

Completed at least five years of additional training as a resident surgeon in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Medical Education or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Completed a minimum of five years of residency training in all areas of surgery, including at least two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery

Passed comprehensive written and oral exams

Other sites for checking credentials or license status include:

American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)

American Board of Medical Specialties

Federation of State Medical Boards

Research is crucial when it comes to any surgical procedure. That’s why VN partnered with aesthetics expert Wendy Lewis to produce Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You — to help answer your questions and empower you to make the right decisions about looking and feeling your best now.

Meet with the surgeon to see if you feel comfortable with him or her.

VN blogger Peggy@ScreamsofConsciousness.com warns, “When you go for a consultation, if you are ‘rushed or raised,’ head for the door. A great doctor will take his or her time, answering your questions. She will not try to ‘upsell’ you on additional procedures, either. She will ask your opinion of what you want for yourself. If you hear the cash register, run!”

Review the surgeon’s before-and-after portfolio.

Seeing is believing, so ask to see before-and-after photos of actual patients on whom the surgeon has performed surgery. Every patient’s results will vary, and there is no guarantee that your results will be the same as any other patient’s, but pre- and post-op photographs of other patients the doctor has worked on will give you an idea of his or her aesthetic skills. Besides providing you with evidence of the surgeon’s work, discussing the before and after photos with the surgeon may also help you clarify your expectations of the procedure itself. Cosmetic surgery should be performed only when the physician and you, the patient, both agree that a specific procedure offers realistic appearance improvements or enhancements.

Make sure the surgeon satisfactorily answers all of your questions about the procedure.

Prepare a list of questions to bring to your consultation and bring a notebook and pen for note-taking. Your initial consultation may be with a staff member, who can answer any concerns you may have about the surgeon’s qualifications, training, experience, and the details such as fees, scheduling, and payment.

Your evaluation should be with the actual doctor who will be performing the procedure. It’s reasonable to ask about the basics of the procedure and how they apply to you specifically. The doctor or someone on his or her staff should fully explain exactly what is involved, what can go wrong, and what the risks of the procedure are — this falls under the realm of what is called “informed consent.”

Wendy Lewis, The Knife Coach, and author of Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery After 50: Expert Advice for Choosing the Best Option for You, lists some of the questions you should ask:

  • How long will the procedure take?
  • Are there any alternatives to consider?
  • How many sessions will I need?
  • How many incisions will I have and where will they be?
  • How much discomfort will I feel?
  • What kind of anesthesia will I be given and who will be administering it?
  • Where will my treatment be done?
  • What are the potential risks and complications associated with the procedure?
  • What is the extent of the recovery, healing, and time off work?
  • How long are the results expected to last? (ask for a range of months to years)

Trust your gut.

After your meeting with the surgeon, Wendy Lewis says, ask yourself how you felt during the visit. The level of communication with your physician and his staff, as well as the confidence they inspire, are vital to the success of your treatment. You should feel that you can trust him or her to take care of you. At the end of the day, you have to go with your best instincts. If you do not feel comfortable with a physician, find another one. Selecting a doctor is among the most important choices you can make. Remember, you are choosing professionals to trust not only with your looks but your health as well.

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