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Spring 2008

Do Your Research When Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon

In a city like Los Angeles, where a multitude of cosmetic-surgery centers vie for attention on billboards, the Internet and the pages of magazines and newspapers, patients must be critical and informed consumers when selecting a cosmetic surgeon.

As when considering any significant medical procedure—and cosmetic surgery is most definitely a significant medical procedure, with attendant risks—prospective patients should never hesitate to ask lots of questions, counsels Timothy A. Miller, M.D., chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at UCLA. “Ask about a surgeon’s training. Ask how many times the surgeon has done the procedure, and about any complications. Ask for referrals. Discuss the risks of the procedure,” he says. The relationship between surgeon and patient should be comfortable and one of mutual trust, Dr. Miller says.

While surgeons may claim to be board-certified, the public often does not understand that cosmetic surgery is not a separate specialty that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). A surgeon’s so-called certification could be from an unrecognized, self-designated board that requires little more than an application fee.

To be sure that their prospective surgeon is well qualified, patients should seek one who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, which is a recognized board of the ABMS. Dr. Miller says, “Any plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons who does a fair amount of reconstructive surgery is likely to also be at ease doing cosmetic surgery.” “A tremendous amount of overlap exists between plastic reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery,” adds George H. Rudkin, M.D., UCLA plastic surgeon. “Reconstructive surgery is very complementary to cosmetic surgery.”

A surgeon should be attuned to the patient’s desires and not over-promise what can be accomplished. “It’s up to the plastic surgeon to explain whether or not what the patient wants can be done,” Dr. Miller says.

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