This post, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Considerations, is part 2 of a 3-part plastic surgery series and shares some practical factors to consider when making a plastic surgery decision. This includes tips on selecting a plastic surgeon, what to expect relative to surgery costs, results, preparation, and more.
Part 3 will discuss Recovery (my own) and will be published in October. Part 1, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Stigma, is here.
It’s undeniable. The popularity of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has surged in recent years and continues on a sharp upward trajectory. Its proliferation is particularly astonishing given that these medical procedures are for the most part unnecessary. They entail real cutting to the body along with in some instances multiple hours of anesthesia. They are replete with health risks and the potential for botched bodies.
But here’s the kicker. The results, if done well, are transformative. The outcomes can have a very real and positive effect not just on the physical but also on the psyche of the patient and can change how successfully he/she moves through the world.
It’s heady stuff. So much so that we may ignore the gravitas of the procedures and the risks. And that might be a mistake.
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Factors
To help avoid the pitfalls of these procedures, this post shares core plastic surgery factors to examine. My hope is that this will provide insight into topics otherwise not contemplated. It may also help to minimize risk, allay the gravitas and offer confidence to ensure a solidly great outcome.
So what are the important plastic surgery considerations? How does one go about making informed decisions in this area? I have listed and discuss 10 of them.
Let’s start first with the highest priority, the doctor.
How Do You Choose A (Great) Plastic Surgeon?
This is not only the most important question to answer but also perhaps the most difficult.
Arguably, some of the difficulty lies in our reverential attitude towards the medical community as a whole. For many of us, there is an underlying bias that the doctor knows more and better than the rest of us non-medical folk. The education and knowledge required to practice medicine can reinforce a perception that our opinion is of less value-even when it’s our body.
Keep in mind that there are all types of surgeons at varying skill levels, education, years of experience, type of experience, protocols they follow, certifications they have, and more. 50% of them graduated in the bottom half of their class. With aesthetic plastic surgery, there is also the artistry component that is an important consideration.
Communicating With Your Plastic Surgeon
Particularly in aesthetic plastic surgery, the best results require collaboration. There is a balance between what the patient wants and/or what can or should be done. To state the obvious, it is critical to express expectations as well as to stand ground when necessary. The end game is trusting the surgeon’s skill and experience to do the “right thing” and suggest options that align with a joint vision.
Choice of doctor affects not just the overall aesthetic result but quite likely recovery. Think infection, bruising, scarring, and the potential to need revision surgery. The point here is that he/she holds many keys to the kingdom and it’s important to stack the deck in your favor.
As you do your plastic surgeon due diligence, below is a checklist of factors that may help.
Plastic Surgeon Referral
Nothing and I repeat nothing replaces referrals from a very trustworthy source(s). This could be someone who has had the very procedure you are seeking from a specific surgeon. In my case, my trustworthy source was someone who worked in the plastic surgery industry for years and had seen a lot of good and bad work by many surgeons across the country and where I live.
What I learned from this individual is not to assume anything. Just because a doctor charges a lot of money or owns a large practice in a high-income area does not mean they are good. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Plastic Surgeon Credentials
Review the surgeon’s credentials just as you would if you were hiring someone. The initial consultation is the interview.
What kind of education does the doctor have? Did he/she graduate in the upper echelon of their class? Does he/she have certifications? Where was residency and how long was it? What kind of plastic surgery does this doctor practice (there are many different specialty areas)? How many of your specific types of procedures does this person hands-on do every year and for how many years? How recent was all of that?
Credentials and certifications particularly in cosmetic surgery can be confusing. There are a variety of boards and board certifications and some have more value than others. As you are screening, here is a list of what to find and it should be in an easy-to-see area on his/her website. If you don’t see it there then be sure to get any gray areas answered before “hiring” him/her.
- Is he/she Board Certified by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)
- Is he/she board certified in the field in which they are treating you
- ABMS is important because of the ongoing education and testing that’s required
- Where did he/she go to school
- Where was residency*
- Was residency completed
- Where and what was additional training
- Where was the medical license obtained
Understand the Fine Print
*It’s important to know that surgery residency is 5 years long, and anyone can obtain a medical license after completing just 1 year of residency. This means that the individual can then practice and perform most any procedure out of his/her office..with only 1 year of residency! The point here is to understand in more detail who the surgeon is beyond the marketing talk.
**Also to note and it’s confusing, you may see ABPS (American Board of Plastic Surgery) certification. ABPS is a specialty subset and part of ABMS.
Here is the site of my plastic surgeon, Dr. Evan Ransom, and a great example of transparency. His educational and practical background is very clear, and he even includes a curriculum vitae in an easily accessible place on his website.
Plastic Surgery Before and After Photos
Plastic Surgery is equal parts technical skill and artistry and the Before and After photos clearly demonstrate that. As you study the photos from different plastic surgeons, you can see substantive differences. You could be one of the before and afters. How does that make you feel? Does it align with your vision?
Price of Plastic Surgery
Since most health insurance does not cover the cost of cosmetic surgery, this factor is important. With that said, price is not an adequate measuring stick for how good a doctor is or how well he/she will perform.
Other costs that are above and beyond the procedure fee can include a non-refundable consultation fee (here in the Bay Area the fee is an average of $150 and applied to any work with that doctor) along with operating room and anesthesia costs. These costs can be quite high.
When getting an estimate from the doctor, it’s important to know what items, if any, are not included.
Are You Healthy Enough for Plastic Surgery
There are minimum health requirements for surgery and anesthesia. Additional tests may include an EKG (depending on age), COVID testing, bloodwork and a general medical exam. Also, many doctors request that their patients not exceed a particular BMI. With the risk that anesthesia poses, it becomes critical to answer the intake questions honestly.
Realistic Expectations for Plastic Surgery
This is one of the main topics of conversation for the initial consultation with the surgeon. This is an honest conversation about the results you want-non-negotiable and nice to have. Does the surgeon believe it is even possible? If not, what is?
How Long Does Plastic Surgery Last
The unfortunate truth is that aging marches on. The duration of the results will vary depending on a number of factors including the use of sunscreen, genetics, patient age, weight gain/loss, the procedure etc. It is important to discuss with your surgeon to get his/her honest perspective. Do not trust anyone who says the results will remain the same forever. It just doesn’t happen.
Care After Surgery
It’s a good thing (and this topic is something I wish I had thought about more earlier on) to understand what kind of care you will need post-surgery. This includes not just the care you give yourself but also what the surgeon offers and whether you need someone to help you. This becomes particularly critical if you have anesthesia. During the initial consultation, understand what the surgeon recommends and requires. This may be an extra cost that wasn’t considered.
I learned a lot through Kelly Greytok and her YouTube videos. She is a plastic surgery aftercare nurse and a great resource.
Initial Plastic Surgery Consultation
All of the research and considerations discussed above are really a lead-up to the initial consultation. This is the meeting whereby decisions will be formed and critical information exchanged. Photos may be taken and the surgeon will provide recommendations based on desires, expectations and reality.
My strong suggestion is to come prepared with questions and discussion points for the doctor and then to document the answers to the questions.
Not only is there a lot of data to digest but quite possibly there could be heightened emotion around making this kind of a step. Personally, I was overwhelmed during these meetings in my own journey and had a hard time remembering some of what was discussed. Fortunately, the doctors offered to talk to me again.
And with that, you are on your way!
This post is part 2 of a 3 part series on Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. It covered 10 different factors to consider when making this kind of decision. They include how to choose a surgeon, price of surgery, plastic surgery expectations initial consultation, health, and more.
Read Part 1 of the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Series here.
SUMMARY OF PLASTIC SURGERY RESOURCES mentioned
www.realself.com for everything about plastic surgery, doctors, procedures; this is like a Yelp for plastic surgery
Kelly Greytok for information on aftercare support
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