3 Essential Facts You Must Know To Help You Understand
How to Go About Your Search


Lois W. Stern

(A common) . . . misperception surrounding cosmetic surgery is that because it’s a cosmetic procedure, it is less than real surgery, and need not be taken as seriously. Certainly, cosmetic surgery is not the same as surgery to repair a damaged heart or kidney, but it is still surgery, and like any elective procedure, should not be undertaken lightly.

Unfortunately managed care has ushered in some undesirable changes to the practice of medicine, including the rush of physicians from diverse specialties to suddenly transform themselves into plastic surgeons. Their motivation is clear: to bypass the managed care system and deal directly with the patient and her checkbook.

To choose a qualified surgeon, you should look at his training, experience, and expertise.


First you need to know that any licensed physician, regardless of training, can legally perform plastic surgery and call himself a plastic or cosmetic surgeon. Be diligent!

Several board specialties are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to perform cosmetic surgery. The board certified plastic surgeon is certified to perform surgeries to any part of the face or body. The board certified otolaryngologist (aka head and neck surgeons or ENT specialists) is certified to perform surgery to the head and neck. Each of these surgeons has completed a minimum of five years of postgraduate surgical training.
Additionally, there are board certified ophthalmologists and board certified dermatologists who have had advanced cosmetic surgical training in their respective fields. If you have a narrowly focused surgical need, (e.g. a cosmetic procedure related to your eyes or your skin), a physician from one of these specialties might be a good choice for you. Otherwise select a trained and certified plastic surgeon


Experience counts. Before you consider a surgeon from any of the above specialties, find out how frequently this physician performs the specific procedures you are considering. We all hone our skills through repetition, including surgeons, who also fine-tune their skills and surgical judgment with experience. That is why it is important that you select someone with not only the proper credentials, but also someone who:
a) devotes most of his practice to cosmetic surgical procedures and
b) has done the procedures which relate to your needs many times and continues to do so on a regular basis.

If you select a plastic surgeon who has been accepted into membership in the prestigious ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery), you will know that he devotes most of his practice to cosmetic plastic surgery and performs a minimum stipulated number of cosmetic procedures each year. Membership does not necessarily assure expertise, but provides an additional layer of protection.


Be certain your surgeon has been approved at his hospital affiliation(s) to perform the specific procedures you are considering - even if your surgeon operates within an ambulatory surgical suite. If a doctor’s privileges have been withheld, it indicates that that hospital’s chief of plastic surgery is not yet satisfied with this surgeon’s advanced training or some of his surgical skills. You deserve expertise, not a surgical practice session. Do not allow any physician to perform procedures for which he has not been granted hospital privileges, even if your surgery is to take place in a non-hospital setting.

In order to achieve the results you deserve, select your surgeon with care and then place your trust and confidence in him, but know that some of the responsibility for a successful outcome still rests in your hands. You need to reveal everything about your health and health habits to your surgeon. That means illnesses, smoking habits and your use of prescriptive, over-the-counter, herbal, habitual and addictive drugs. (Remember, even a bottle of wine consumed at night with dinner is alcohol.) Many of these substances can conflict with certain forms of anesthesia or cause complications during or after surgery. You need to consider all forms of ingestion carefully and answer forthrightly. Be honest with your doctor. Don’t hold back anything. Your recovery, sometimes even your life, depend upon your full disclosure.

Finally, remember to follow your surgeon’s instructions scrupulously.


"New surgical techniques and equipment often arrive on the scene with great fanfare. Fraxel laser, thermage, laser liposuction, and contour threading are just a few such examples. Be careful. We need to exercise caution and let science precede the hype, because as soon as something is FDA approved, there is a huge effort on the part of companies to promote it. But results from the newest equipment and techniques do not always match their early promises. Both plastic surgeons and patients are vulnerable. We all want the same things: procedures with long lasting effect that offer great benefit, but at the same time are minimally invasive, quick fixes with little downtime and small risk. Many of the procedures on the horizon offer exciting possibilities, but have not yet been subjected to the kind of peer review clinical studies which let us know just how safe, effective and long lasting they will be.” 2

1. This article has been excerpted from Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery by Lois W. Stern, published by Infinity Publishing, and reprinted in LI Beauty Guide.

2. McCafferty, Leo, MD. , Clinical Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, At-Large member of the Board of Directors of the ASAPS, Plastic Surgery Consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Get a free copy of The Ten Golden Rules for Safe Cosmetic Surgery, a neat little e-book written by the Nip Tuck Coach, Michele Garber. Click here.

You have my permission to reprint this article in part or full providing it contains the following attribution:
Lois W. Stern is the author of the award winning books, Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery (also available in another edition with a CD enclosure) and Tick Tock ~ Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour (Infinity Publishing).


Lois invites prospective cosmetic surgery patients, physicians, and media to visit her website to read other articles and/or sign up for her monthly newsletter at: