Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

If you are considering cosmetic or plastic surgery, do not overlook the importance of choosing the right physician. Consider these tips when researching your potential plastic surgeon:

1. Make sure the surgeon is board certified.

All plastic surgeons are not alike. Plastic surgeons that are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) are uniquely qualified and specially trained. They have been proven to provide the best patient care and have the lowest rates of complications.

Do not assume that all doctors who claim to be "board certified" have the same training. Be sure that your doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In Canada, look for a physician who is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Don't be fooled by other professional-sounding boards.

If a doctor is certified by the ABPS this means that they are certified in plastic surgery and have met the following requirements:

  • They have earned a degree from an accredited medical school
  • They have completed 3 years of general surgery
  • They have completed 2-3 years of supervised residency in plastic surgery
  • They have had at least 2 years of professional practice
  • They have passed rigorous written and oral exams (only about 70 percent of physicians who take the test pass it)

The ABPS is recognized and overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties and sets high education and training standards. To find out if your doctor is board certified, check with the American Board of Medical Specialties.

2. Check the surgeon's record.

Track down your state's medical board. You can find out more about a surgeon's record from these organizations, which record any disciplinary actions against the cosmetic surgeon. Contact the board and ask for a report. Each state treats a doctor's record a little differently. In some states you may be able to view a surgeon's records online. In other states you have to request the information through the mail. Pay close attention to any settlements or records of disciplinary action. Also make sure that your surgeon is licensed to practice medicine within the state.

3. Ask if the surgeon has hospital privileges.

This is important because hospitals do background checks. If they don't have hospital privileges, that is a red flag. Dr. Phil's guest, Dr. Pearlman Hicks, says, "The hospital has balances and checks on your practice. They know what you're doing. They know that you're doing the right workups and that sort of thing. And also, if there's a complication, you have a place to take your patient. Oftentimes when you're doing surgery in an outpatient setting, there's no place to take a patient if you can't admit them to a hospital."

4. Come armed with questions for your doctor.

According to The Arizona Medical Board, some questions you should ask your plastic surgeon include:

  • How many times has the physician performed the procedure?
  • How long has the physician performed the procedure?
  • What other procedures does he/she perform?
  • Who will assist in the procedure? Their qualifications and training?
  • Are all involved licensed in good standing?
  • What is involved in the procedure? How is it performed?
  • Can I see multiple before and after photos of patients on whom you have performed this procedure?
  • Can you provide me with three to five reference patients on whom you've performed this procedure?
  • What are the exact breakdown of fees for this procedure?
  • Can I get advance copies of all forms I have to complete and sign prior to procedure?
  • Are you insured for malpractice?
  • Will the physician use sedation? If yes, what level of sedation will the physician use?
  • Who will administer and monitor the sedation?
  • How long will the procedure last?
  • How long will the sedation effects last?
  • How long will it take to recover in the facility before discharge?
  • Where will the surgery take place?
  • What are the emergency plans?
  • To which hospital would you be taken?
  • Will post-operative medicine be necessary?
  • Will there be noticeable scarring?
  • What realistic result can I expect?
  • Will the physician perform the procedure from the first cut to the last stitch?
  • What are the risks associated with this procedure?
  • What are the warning signs or concerns to watch for?
  • Do you do revisions and at what cost?


To find a plastic surgeon in your area, check out:




Other resources:





Around the Web