Tips for Choosing The Best Plastic Surgeon

By Trudi Bonomi January 5, 2015 27 Comments

choosing plastic surgeon

1. Find out if the surgeon is board certified

Surgeons that are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) are uniquely qualified and specially trained in the field of plastic surgery. Typically board certified plastic surgeons have lower complication rates and provide superior patient care compared to physicians without certification.

To become certified by the ABPS plastic surgeons must:

  • Earn a degree from an accredited medical school
  • Successfully complete 3 years of general surgery
  • Successfully complete a 2-3 year residency program in the field of plastic surgery
  • Have at least 2 years of professional practice following residency
  • Pass various oral and written exams administered by the ABPS

The American Board of Medical Specialties oversees the ABPS and sets high training and education requirements for entrance. You can easily check if a doctor is board certified by clicking here.

2. Check the surgeon’s record

You can go the medical board of your state to verify that the surgeon is licensed to practice within that state and view any disciplinary actions taken against the surgeon. Typically all that’s needed to obtain this information from the board is to submit a records request either through the mail or online.

3. Make sure the surgery will be performed in an accredited facility

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) requires that its members operate in accredited facilities when any significant anesthesia is used in the procedure. Accredited facilities are surgical rooms that meet strict standards for equipment, personnel, and room safety. In order to receive and maintain accreditation, the facility must adhere to various standards established by state and federal guidelines.

There are three primary agencies that certify facilities. These include the American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF), the Joint Commission, and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc. (AAAHC).

4. Ask if the surgeon has hospital privileges

This is an easy way to verify the qualifications of a surgeon. Hospitals conduct detailed background checks prior to granting a physician privileges to operate within their facilities. Thus, privileges from a reputable hospital are a good indication that the surgeon is qualified and in good standing.

5. Ask detailed questions

One of the best things to do is to ask the surgeon detailed questions that may include:

  • How many times have you performed this specific procedure?
  • When did you start doing this procedure?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Will anyone else be assisting with the procedure? If so, what training do they have?
  • What specific technique will be used? Why use that technique over others?
  • Are you insured for malpractice?
  • If sedation is utilized, who will administer and monitor sedation?
  • What contingency plans are in place in the event of an emergency?
  • Realistically, what results can I expect?
  • Have you had instances of complications with this procedure? If so what were they?
  • Do you do revisions and at what cost?

6. Make sure the plastic surgeon is a good match

A consultation is a great opportunity to make sure the surgeon is a good fit. If you meet the surgeon during the consultation, pay attention to the surgeon’s overall demeanor. Are questions answered in a detailed and professional manner? Does the surgeon take his or her time during the consultation to answer your questions, or do they seem rushed? Are you confident in this person’s ability to operate on you?

The surgeon’s mannerisms and personality during the consultation is a good indicator of how the surgeon will act during the surgery and post-operatively.

7. Beware of bargain prices

If pricing seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is. Cheap plastic surgery can become very expensive if revisions are necessary or complications arise. While the low sticker price or Groupon deal may be enticing, the reasons behind advertising low prices can be concerning:

  • The quoted price could exclude other fees or after procedure costs.
  • The facility where the procedure is performed may be outdated and non-compliant.
  • The surgeon may be using outdated/expired tools or implants.
  • The surgeon may lack experience or still be in training.
  • The practice is in desperate need of new patients.

8. Review before and after photos

A picture really is worth a thousand words. Nothing speaks more to a the ability and training of a plastic surgeon than before and after photos from real patients who underwent the procedure you are interested in. Ask the surgeon for images of patients of similar age or who had the same goals and body type/face type as you do. This is a great indicator of the type of results you can expect.

9. Talk with previous patients

A great way to gain insight on the surgeon is to ask previous patients about their experience and results. Ask friends or family for referrals. You can also turn to forums and websites such as RealSelf to communicate with previous patients of the surgeon and ask about their experience.


Trudi Bonomi

Trudi Bonomi is a Cosmetic Consultant with Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. She has been with the practice since 2007. Trudi provides personal consultations with patients regarding breast augmentation, liposuction, facelift, and many other plastic surgery and laser procedures.


27 Responses to “Tips for Choosing The Best Plastic Surgeon”

  1. Tyrone H. says:

    I have a friend who’s looking to get cosmetic surgery at some point in the near future. She’s been looking for a good provider to do the surgery. I really like what you said about making sure the surgeon is board certified. You definitely want to make sure your cosmetic surgeon, or any surgeon for that matter, is qualified. Hopefully she can find a good physician!

  2. Mark says:

    I have been seeking a plastic surgeon for a while now. Obviously, you need to find a doctor that has an accredited medical school degree. I want to see his or her track record as well.

  3. Keara says:

    I can understand why it’d be a good idea to make sure that the surgeon you’re looking at is board certified before doing anything else. If I were looking to get plastic surgery done, I’d want to be sure it’s someone that knows what they’re doing. If I remember right, my mom has been thinking about getting some work done, but hasn’t started looking for a surgeon yet. I’ll have to tell her to check the certification before committing to anything.

  4. James H. says:

    The first thing that I would review is the plastic surgeons previous cases. Reviewing before and after photos will build confidence in the patient. The tip about talking to previous patients is also very useful. Specifically if you can actually speak to a previous patient about their experience.

  5. Ellen B. says:

    Cosmetic surgery requires a skilled and qualified doctor. I agree that it’s important to check the surgeon’s record. If you research reviews beforehand, you’ll have a better idea of the quality of their work.

  6. Jeff says:

    I appreciate your tip on finding if a plastic surgeon is board certified. I would imagine that finding a board certified surgeon would be important to ensuring you get a quality job done. My sister in law is looking into getting a breast augmentation surgery so she should definitely look for a board certified surgeon to do the job.

  7. Dr. Beran says:

    Before getting plastic surgery always make sure the surgeon has all the proper certifications! Nice tips.

  8. Anna says:

    I would also add that its important for patients to make sure every individual that will be involved in the surgery is a certified professional. This includes anesthesiologists, nurses, etc.

  9. Maggie says:

    Thanks for sharing all of these tips on choosing the best plastic surgeon! For my 30th birthday, I’m treating myself to a breast augmentation, and I want to make sure it’s done right. These detailed questions you listed will be especially helpful for me. I would have never thought to ask about possible assistants or techniques being used during the procedure.

  10. Baxter says:

    I had no idea that you could ask if reconstructive surgeons have hospital privileges and that it means they’re more reliable if they do. I appreciate you including that, and I also like what you said about asking surgeons detailed questions when searching for one to operate on you. I’ll be sure to check and see if a reconstructive surgeon has hospital privileges before I choose to go with them!

  11. Dennis says:

    Thanks for the great blog. A close friend of mine has been considering having a cosmetic procedure done, but wanted to make sure that they had the very best surgeon. You advised having a consultation with the surgeon to ensure that they are a good fit for you, and that you should also note their demeanor and see if they are behaving in a professional manner. Working with a true professional could give my friend a lot of comfort going forward with the procedure.

  12. Dr. Mosley says:

    Great tips! This is indeed what the patients are to be looking at when choosing a surgeon. Alternatively, it is a smart move to check for recommendations as well from people who have first hand experience with the surgeon. And of course, a certified plastic surgeon should always be a requirement.

  13. Max says:

    I like that you talked about making sure that a surgeon has an accredited facility to do reconstructive surgery. My son is going to need to have some oral reconstructive surgery done after getting in a fight, and we want to make sure things get done right. We’re in Pennsylvania so we are probably going to go here : http://centralpa-cpoms.com/bone-grafting/

    But I’m going to have to look into the doctor doing the surgery, and what experience he has with oral reconstructive procedures.

  14. Ivy says:

    These are some great tips for patients! I also think its important for plastic surgeons to realize what kinds of questions perspective patients should ask and fill in any information they may not bring up. That way both patient and surgeon can be on the same page in terms of treatment and desired results.

  15. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the tip that I make sure the surgeon to help me has hospital privileges. My mom has been considering getting a facelift with Dr. Parell (http://www.wmparell.com/)and I want to make sure we can trust whoever will complete the procedure. I’ll be sure to tell her that she should ask if the surgeon who takes care of her has hospital privileges since the medical facility will do a background check on any of the doctors even partially working there.

    Unfortunately we’re in Kentucky, otherwise we would definitely come in for a consultation!

  16. Alexandria says:

    My mother wants to get some cosmetic procedures and she was wondering how she should pick a surgeon. I like your advice to talk to past patients. They will give their honest opinions and be truthful with their experiences.

  17. Michael says:

    Thanks for everything that you had to say here about what to ask your surgeon before you decide on having them perform the operation. One questions that I had not thought to ask was about the credentials of their assistants and even how many times they have performed the specific operation. My wife is wanting to have some work done on her nose this Christmas holiday weekend, and I think that we will need to ask them about a couple of these things. Thanks for the post, and I will make sure that we have hospital privileges.

  18. Hannah says:

    I agree with your point when you say that you need to consider if a plastic surgeon is properly accredited. I appreciate your advice about how a plastic surgeon who is accredited would maintain high safety standards. My mom has been considering botox for a while, so if she decides to get it, she’ll have to find an accredited surgeon to help out.

  19. Jenna says:

    I like your advice on checking if the surgeon has hospital privileges because that means they are qualified and in good standing. I have been thinking of getting breast enhancement surgery but don’t know where to start when looking for a surgeon. I will have to ask around with friends and family and see if they have any recommendations.

  20. Ashley says:

    My mom has been wondering how to find the best plastic surgery center that will be able to help her get rid of some of her wrinkles. So I appreciate your suggestion to talk to the medical board of our state to make sure that the doctor we are considering is fully satisfied. I will be sure to tell my mom that she should make sure that all of the doctors at the plastic surgery center she goes to are fully licensed.

  21. Earnest says:

    My wife has been wanting a facelift, so I appreciated the tips you gave in your article. My favorite tip you gave was to ask plenty of detailed questions to get a better idea of the surgeon’s experience and reputation. I’d imagine this would imply setting up a consultation which would also help me feel more comfortable with our choice in surgeon for my wife’s facelift.

  22. Kayla says:

    My cousin wants to have a nose job as a graduation gift from her parents. You mentioned here that before undergoing reconstructive surgery, we have to first check if the surgeon is certified. Moreover, we are to ask detailed questions about how often was he or she able to do the surgery successfully.

  23. Ellie says:

    My sister has been considering getting plastic surgery for about a year now and I think she is starting to seriously look into it. Thank you for suggesting that you plan for some fees other than the original quoted price. I hope she is able to find a surgeon in the area that she works well with and can get the look she wants.

  24. Hannah says:

    I agree that you want to consider going to a medical board and looking to see if a plastic surgeon is licensed to practice in your state. Finding someone who is qualified and experienced as well would be really helpful in order to ensure that they do good work.

  25. John says:

    That’s a good tip to find certified surgeons. They have to meet standards set by the APBS. Boards like that exist to tell you the qualities of the surgeons under it.

  26. Dr. Adams says:

    Great tips for making an important choice. Thank you for posting!

  27. Dr. Alavi says:

    Good tip regarding asking your perspective surgeon for before/afters of previous similar cases to see the quality of the work.

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