How to Choose a Cosmetic Surgeon

Two Parts:Choosing the Right Cosmetic SurgeonAvoiding Surgical Risks

If you are considering cosmetic or plastic surgery to your body (breasts and face are the most common locations), don't overlook the importance of choosing the right surgeon, as not all are equally trained or competent. Consider the following tips when researching for potential plastic surgeons.

Part 1
Choosing the Right Cosmetic Surgeon

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    Make sure the surgeon is board certified. In addition to ensuring that your doctor has actually graduated from an accredited medical school, make sure they are board certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).[1] By law, any medical doctor can perform virtually any medical procedure, so make sure they are a trained specialist in the surgery you need.
    • The ABPS is recognized and overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties and sets very high educational and training standards.
    • In Canada, the equivalent organization is The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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    Ask about their experience. Once you've established they are a board certified surgeon in the specialty you require (such as breast augmentation or face lift), ask about their experience.[2] Find out how many times they've done your type of surgery and when the most recent time was. Some doctor who focuses on breast implants, may occasionally do face lifts to augment their income, for example — avoid this situation.
    • In general, pick the most experienced surgeon you can who is established in the community you're in.
    • Newly graduated doctors shouldn't always be avoided because sometimes they are the most up-to-date on new surgical advances.
    • If you know the name of the surgical technique you want, ask if the doctor has experience in that specific technique.
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    Check the doctor's record. Thanks to the internet, it's easier now than ever to do research online from your home, so use this to your advantage by checking your doctor's record.[3] The status of your doctor's license can be found through their state licensing boards. Pick surgeons with clean records and no history of serious discipline or malpractice.
    • Go to the Federation of State Medical Boards' website,, to find information on a doctor you're considering for surgery.
    • For a fee, the FSMB will provide the doctor's full profile, including disciplinary actions in other states.
    • Litigation is becoming more and more common, so malpractice suits against doctors are not unusual and not always a sign of incompetence or negligence. Ask you doctor about a particular case if you're concerned.
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    Research reviews from previous patients. Another advantage of the internet is that there's a number of sites and organizations that rank doctors and encourage reviews and discussion from previous patients. Find these sites and read what other patients are saying about doctors you're considering for your surgical procedure.[4]
    • Keep in mind that people often take the time to write a review online when they're not happy, much more so than when they're satisfied. As such, you'll read a disproportionate number of negative reviews usually.
    • Read reviews of people who had the same procedure as you. Put more weight into their review if they have similar proportions — going from A cups to C cups in breast augmentation, for example.
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    Find out if they have hospital privileges. Most hospitals do background checks on their doctors, so if they don't have hospital privileges, consider it a potential red flag.[5] The vast majority of reputable plastic surgeons maintain hospital privileges for the safety and convenience of their patients.
    • Hospitals have credentialing committees who screen other physicians to make sure they are safe and up-to-date on procedures.
    • If there's a complication during your surgery in an out-patient clinic, you can be taken to a hospital if your surgeon has privileges there.
    • Some successful surgeons have clinics that are much like small hospitals, so privileges isn't always critical in all cases.
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    Don't pick the lowest bidder. In most cases, you'll be paying out of pocket for plastic or cosmetic surgery, but don't always gravitate to the surgeon who charges the least. Lower than average costs are often a reflection of an inexperienced surgeon or one who cuts corners, which isn't usually in your best interests.[6]
    • Shop around for pricing, but balance that against the surgeon's experience and good record. Get quotes from at least three different doctors.
    • Cheaper fees due to lower overhead costs is ideally what you want to find.
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    Use your instincts. If you've narrowed it down to a couple of potential surgeons who seem to be equally qualified and offer similar prices, then use your instincts to make your final decision. Ask yourself if you like spending time with him or her and if they inspire confidence in you.[7] Do they seem like a compassionate person whom you can trust?
    • Your decision process shouldn't start with a personality competition, but it can come down to that after you've narrowed it down to a couple of highly qualified candidates.
    • Look to see how the doctor gets along with their staff. If the staff seems happy and praises the doctor, then you're likely in good hands.

Part 2
Avoiding Surgical Risks

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    Avoid combining multiple procedures. Many people who are drawn to cosmetic / plastic surgery don't stop at a single procedure. Doctor's know this and try to combine procedures sometimes for convenience and some cost savings to you — although the overall price is higher, of course. However, bundling surgical procedures, especially at different areas of the body (breast implant with liposuction, for example), significantly increases the risks of life threatening complication.[8]
    • Motivation to make money is strong in some doctors, but don't let their packaged deals convince you. Get another procedure once you're properly healed from the first.
    • Ask for a "returning patient discount" on subsequent procedures instead of trying to get them all done at once.
    • Another way of saving or recouping your money is through referral fees. As such, refer a friend or family member for a similar procedure if you're happy and get a referral fee from the doctor.
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    Check if the surgery facility is accredited. Wherever your surgeon plans on operating on you (their own clinic, an independent out-patient clinic or a hospital), make sure the facility is accredited.[9] Your safety during surgery also depends on the anesthetist and support staff working along side your surgeon, so accreditation is some more piece of mind.
    • Accredited operating rooms and surgical units have key life support systems just in case something goes wrong during your procedure.
    • For accreditation, look for AAAASF, AAAHC or JCAHO operating facility certification.[10]
    • Don't forget about your anesthetist’s qualifications. They should be either a Board Certified Anesthesiologist (BCA) or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
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    Follow all recommendations clearly. To reduce your risks during your surgical procedure, make sure to follow all the advice and recommendations from your doctor, particularly what you're supposed to do the day before and the day of surgery.[11] As such, choose a surgeon who is communicative with you and easily understood.
    • If English is your native tongue, make sure the doctor can speak English or has a translator.
    • Ask the doctor if they have any brochures or pamphlets that you can take home and read in order to get better informed.
    • See if the doctor's office is open extended hours or has methods of communicating and answering questions after hours.


  • Bring a friend or relative with you to pre-surgical appointments. They might pick up on something important you missed or think of additional questions.
  • Make sure you have realistic expectations on your surgeon about your cosmetic surgery and what it can accomplish.
  • Cosmetic surgery can improve the way you look, but not guarantee happiness.
  • The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF), the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) are surgery center accreditations.
  • Make sure all fees are clearly stated and the quote is all-inclusive.


  • Cosmetic surgery can have severe side effects, including infections and complications related to anesthesia.

Article Info

Categories: Finding a Medical Specialist | Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery