You are considering Plastic, Aesthetic Surgery. This is a big decision in your life that has potential to improve your self esteem and lifestyle. Choosing a plastic surgeon is one of the most important decisions in this process you will make. The following is important information you should use in planning for your Surgery.
All doctors have differing levels of training, experience and expertise. A plastic surgeon is a highly trained surgical specialist. In contrast the training of so called “cosmetic surgeons ” is highly variable and often “non existent.”
A Specialist plastic surgeon practices plastic and reconstructive surgery and of course cosmetic surgery. To qualify as specialist plastic surgeons a doctor must be trained through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), which involves a minimum of 8 years of extensive rigorous training and exams after graduation from medical school. Most are also members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the representative organisation of plastic surgeons in Australia. In Australia, just about anyone with a basic medical degree (MBBS) can legally perform cosmetic surgical procedures as there is currently no legislation in place which stops any doctor, even your local GP, with no recognised surgical training doing so.
Fellow Royal Australian College of Surgeons
Your best safeguard is to look for the letters FRACS (Fellow Royal Australian College of Surgeons) after your doctor’s name and check that they are affiliated with the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), as only fully qualified plastic surgeons have these titles and memberships. Specialist Plastic Surgeons are fully qualified surgeons and Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS: www.surgeons.org/find-a-surgeon/) who have completed a similar training program to other specialist surgical specialists in Australia such as Cardiac Surgeons, Orthopaedic Surgeons, Neurosurgeons, ENT Surgeons and Eye Surgeons. Look for the FRACS qualification to confirm this. Specialist Plastic Surgeons are also members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS: www.plasticsurgery.org.au/). Look for the ASPS logo to confirm this.
The use of the title “specialist” is regulated by Australian law and a non specialist practitioner can not represent his or herself as a specialist surgeon as they have no higher surgical qualification.
Once you have identified genuine Specialist Plastic Surgeons, you will need to choose between them. Plastic surgery and particularly cosmetic plastic surgery is an art form. Different surgeons have varying levels of training, experience and expertise. A cosmetic plastic operation is not a commodity purchase such as buying a car or a washing machine. The ‘product’ you get will be very different from surgeon to surgeon.
When choosing a surgeon there are things that are important, things that are unimportant and warning signs to look out for.
Things that are important
1) Qualification of surgeon
As outlined above, ensure your surgeon is a fully qualified Plastic Surgeon with FRACS after his name. Almost every plastic surgeon in Australia is a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons or ASPS. Practitioners who are not qualified surgeons will not have FRACS credentials.
This can be by word of mouth (from friends and associates) or from your general practitioner.
3) Experience of the surgeon.
- How long has the surgeon been doing the procedure?
- Have any complications occurred?
- How many has he or she performed?
- How often does he or she do the procedure?
You should be shown photographic examples of the surgeon’s own work (pre and postoperative photographs) for the operation. This should include many examples, not just one or two, in order to satisfy you of the volume of operations the surgeon is doing.
4) Rapport with the surgeon
You should feel comfortable with the surgeon and satisfy yourself a full and unbiased explanation of the procedure has been given with a full and detailed explanation of potential risks, complications and side effects. At the end of the consultation you should feel happy your surgeon will look after your interests. The surgeon may be able to arrange for other patients who have had the procedure to speak with you.
5) Yes we are in the digital age where everyone is surfing the internet and looking for reviews and chats. Testimonials are illegal on surgeons websites and related media so if you see any be very wary of the practitioner posting them. If you must research a surgeon, do so only on totally independent review sites such as Realself and Plastic Surgery Forum.
Things that are not important
1. The cost of the surgery – costs quoted are unrelated to level of training or experience or the result you will derive from surgery. Paying more won’t guarantee better results and on the other hand shopping around for the cheapest price may steer you to an inexperienced surgeon. You should make your decision based on ‘important factors’. Remember, Cosmetic plastic surgery isn’t like buying a TV or a washing machine.
2. The size or extravagance of the surgeons Office. Some surgeons try to impress their patients with fancy and extravagant offices. While it is nice to visit modern, high tech and well decorated rooms, they make absolutely no difference to the operation or results of surgery you will get.
3. Further, the appearance, manner or presentation of secretarial & support staff – have no bearing on the quality of the surgery.
4. The use of expensive, fancy or high tech gadgets or machines (such as digital imaging) in the office will make no difference to the quality of surgery you will receive or the results you will attain.
5. “Celebrity Status” – this is always bought by marketing activities such as publicists, social media campaigns, kickbacks and payments. Remember, with the media, everything is done on a commercial basis. Today in the digital age, the “smoke and mirrors” takes the form of Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Youtube, Google+ and many other social media platforms. Unfortunately these strategies easily mislead many people. Having a high profile and large social media presence again has no correlation to the expertise of the surgeon or the quality and safety of surgery you will receive.
Further, the following are warning signs when dealing with a surgeon:
1) You feel pressured to proceed with surgery, either by the surgeon, secretarial or support staff. Deciding to proceed should be totally up to you. Suggesting or pressuring you to “book in” is a red flag”. There should be a cooling off period of 10 days following initial consultation as stipulated in ASPS guidelines so be very wary if this is not the case.
2) The surgeon tells you he or she is the best. Some highly promoted practitioners using advertising mediums and social media platforms also commonly claim this – this is totally baseless.
3) The surgeon criticises other similarly qualified surgeons.
4) Discouraging you from seeking other opinions. Discouraging patients from seeking opinions from other similarly practitioners prior to proceeding with a procedure is a warning sign.
The above should help steer you safer decision making.
We wish you well on your road to Cosmetic Plastic Surgery.