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Cosmetic surgery is meant to make you look better; looking better should make you feel better. But, the reverse is also true; looking bad can make you feel bad. And there’s nothing that makes you look or feel worse than a botched cosmetic surgical procedure. Aside from all the money you’ve wasted (since most cosmetic surgery is elective, there’s no guarantee that your insurance will cover it), there’s also the additional hassle of having to go through corrective procedures (in the very fortunate cases where correction is possible).

The decision to have work done on your breasts or body is an important one, as the results will impact you positively or negatively for the rest of your life. So, how do you make sure that after you’ve made the big decision to undergo a cosmetic surgical procedure, you have maximized your chances for a positive outcome? According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, there are five basic questions to ask your doctor:

1. Are You a Board-Certified Cosmetic Surgeon?

Most people don’t realize this, but state laws permit any licensed physician to call him – or herself a “plastic” or “cosmetic” surgeon – even if he or she has not been trained as a plastic surgeon or has had no surgical training at all. Board-certified plastic surgeons are required to complete a minimum of five years of surgical training following medical school, including a plastic surgery residency program.

2. How Frequently Do You Perform This Type of Procedure?

Would you trust your Lasik procedure to an ophthalmologist who has only worked with the laser once or twice? Of course not. It’s important to realize that some cosmetic surgeons perform a wide variety of procedures, so if you’re looking for breast implants or body work, don’t go to a nose job virtuoso.

3. What Type of Anesthesia Will You Be Using?

The consequences of anesthesia errors don’t have to be detailed here. We all know them. Make sure that you not only get an answer to this question, but that you also talk directly to the doctor who will be administering the anesthetic.

4. What Will the Recovery Be Like?

Recovery is often the worse part of the whole process. Make sure the doctor prepares you for what your recovery process is likely to entail. If it involves special guidelines, such as caring for surgical drains, it’s best to know up front and plan accordingly.

5. What Will the Total Cost of the Procedure Be?

As mentioned above, cosmetic surgery is not always covered by insurance. If it’s classified as an elective procedure, and the money is coming out of your own pocket, you need to make sure you can afford it.

Beyond the Basics

Aside from these questions, there are other things you should do. Cosmetic surgeons live and die by the word of mouth of their patients, so ask around. Everyone knows someone who’s had cosmetic surgery. Can they give you a recommendation?

Also, do some research on the reputation of prospective surgeons. A reputable and reliable practice’s web site should look like this one — thorough, open and with exhaustive information about the medical professional and the practice, including information about the surgeon’s medical training, degrees, and certifications. You cannot have too much information, and the doctor should be pleased to answer any questions you have about him/her and his/her practice during your initial consultation.

Finally, there’s a question of chemistry. All things being equal in terms of skill and competency, choose a cosmetic surgeon who makes you feel comfortable. That goes for his staff as well. Medical procedures are difficult and unpleasant. But, if you do all you can to guarantee a successful outcome for your breast or bodywork, you’ll find that the gain greatly exceeds the pain. And, remember, you’re worth it.

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