Choosing A Plastic Surgeon: How Do You Begin?

Choosing a skilled plastic surgeon to perform your breast augmentation is the single most important thing you can do to maximize your satisfaction and minimize your risk of complications. Here are some tips to get you started.

Gather Names of the Best Plastic Surgeons

Ask around. If you know anyone who has had breast augmentation surgery, ask them for referrals. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to find an excellent surgeon (and also one of the best ways to weed out not-so-excellent surgeons). Note, however, that a glowing reference from someone who had a great nose job does not mean that this plastic surgeon is the best for breasts.

Your general practitioner or gynecologist may also have some recommendations.

Do Some Googling

Type in the procedure you are considering, and gather as much information as possible on what it entails. Some websites also allow you to locate surgeons near you. You will probably begin to see some of the same names come up over and over again.

Once you gather the names of several plastic surgeons, look into their credentials. Many surgeons have websites where they describe their education, training and qualifications. (Don't be afraid to double-check this information by calling a state medical board or medical specialty board to confirm information.)

If a plastic surgeon says he is on staff at a given hospital, call that hospital and check that he does, in fact, have privileges. Even surgeons who perform cosmetic procedures in their offices should have admitting privileges or even a staff position at a local hospital.

Understanding Board Certification

You may have heard the phrase "board certified" bandied about in discussions about  plastic surgery. Surgeons who perform breast augmentation often have certifications in either plastic surgery or surgery, and sometimes in both.

With breast augmentation, when you hear the term "board certified," it most commonly means certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS); or in Canada, by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). Doctors of Osteopathy (a DO rather than an MD) can be certified in plastic surgery through their osteopathic board and also through the ABPS. 

The most prominent organizations offering board certification to plastic surgeons include the following:

American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Many medical specialties have certifying boards. The organization that oversees medical specialty boards in the United States is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which comprises 24 member boards.

American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). A plastic surgeon in the U.S. should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This is the board that offers certification in plastic and reconstructive surgery, including cosmetic surgery.

Board certification in plastic surgery assures that a plastic surgeon has completed his or her residency, is trained in plastic surgery, has practiced plastic surgery for a number of years, and has passed oral and written exams.

Surgeons certified by the ABPS have:

  • graduated from an accredited medical school;
  • completed at least five years of additional training as a resident surgeon, including a minimum three-year residency in an accredited general surgery program and a minimum two-year residency in plastic surgery;
  • passed rigorous written and oral tests.

In addition, the ABPS requires that a plastic surgeon take at least 150 hours of continuing medical education during the three years before re-certification. Board-certified surgeons must be recertified every 10 years. 

American College of Surgeons. You may see the initials FACS after a surgeon's name. This stands for Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, which means he or she is a member of the American College of Surgeons and has been board certified in surgery.

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). This organization oversees medical education of specialists in Canada. They are charged with training and evaluating specialists in 65 disciplines.

Members Only

There are several medical societies in the fields of plastic and cosmetic surgery; the two most prominent among them are the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Membership in these societies is not required to practice cosmetic plastic surgery, nor does it necessarily mean that a surgeon is competent or has a skillful eye. But, being a member of these societies assures you that the surgeon meets their stringent criteria.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) only accepts cosmetic plastic surgeons certified by either the ABPS or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). The ASAPS also requires the members be in at least the third year of active practice following board certification.

The best plastic surgeon may not be the best plastic surgeon for you. At the end of the day, it is important that you are comfortable with the surgeon and feel that he or she is listening to you and understands what you want out of your breast augmentation surgery.

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    Ronald H. Schuster, MD

    10807 Falls Road, #100
    Baltimore, MD 21093
    (800) 572-1096
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    Brian R Buinewicz MD

    Buinewicz Plastic Surgery & Medspa
    3655 Route 202
    Suites 225 and 230
    Doylestown, PA 18902
    (800) 769-0037
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    Julio Clavijo-Alvarez, MD

    Re-Nova Plastic Surgery
    1000 Stonewood Drive
    Suite 320
    Wexford, PA 15090
    (800) 930-5719
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