Within the field of plastic surgery, there are several specialties and dozens of subspecialties that plastic surgeons may concentrate and focus their work on. Although board-certified plastic surgeons must prove proficiency in both general surgery and multiple plastic surgical procedures, and may even choose to become certified in one or more sub-specialties of plastic surgery, patients should choose a doctor with plenty of education, hands-on training, and on-the-job experience in the specific plastic surgery procedure they’re seeking.
Understanding different types of plastic surgery. Plastic surgery can be divided into two classes: cosmetic/aesthetic and reconstructive. Reconstructive plastic surgeons are primarily concerned with restoring function to a part or area of the body, while cosmetic/aesthetic plastic surgeons are primarily concerned with appearance and form. If you are seeking a cosmetic procedure such as a facelift, choose a plastic surgeon whose work is focused on aesthetic procedures and who regularly performs facelifts.
Keep in mind that cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery are often combined to create the best outcome for the patient. For example, reconstructive breast surgery, usually performed on women who have undergone a mastectomy due to breast cancer, is a type of reconstructive plastic surgery that restores both function and appearance to the affected breast(s). Choosing a doctor who specializes in reconstructive breast surgery for cosmetic breast augmentation often means that the surgeon has extensive knowledge and experience with both procedures.
Rhinoplasty, also known as a nose job, provides another example. Often thought of as a purely cosmetic procedure, a patient may undergo reconstructive rhinoplasty following a severe nose injury, facial disfigurement, or in childhood due to a congenital condition. A doctor who specializes in reconstructive rhinoplasty may be the best choice for cosmetic rhinoplasty because reconstructive surgery often includes both function and appearance.
Finding a plastic surgery clinic and physician that are right for you. It’s not enough to find the right doctor for a cosmetic procedure. You need the right clinic, surgical team, and setting to give you peace of mind and a positive experience that leads to your desired outcome.
Start by using the American Board of Medical Specialties to locate a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area. You can refine your search based on surgeon location and specialty. A board-certified plastic surgeon has graduated from an accredited medical school, completed five to seven years of hands-on resident training in both general and plastic surgery, passed written and oral examinations before the board, and may have additionally elected to receive board certification in one or more subspecialties of plastic surgery.
Once you’ve found a surgeon, make an initial appointment to meet with the doctor about your desired procedure. Interview the doctor, asking questions such as:
- How long have you been practicing?
- How many similar procedures have you completed? In the last year?
- Are you board certified specifically for my procedure, and for how long?
Also request to meet with the doctor’s surgical team and to tour the areas of the facility that you’ll be using during your procedure, such as waiting areas, operating rooms, and recovery rooms. Choose a clinic and doctor with whom you feel comfortable and have a good rapport.