How to find and interview a facial plastic surgeon
If you are considering facial plastic
surgery for yourself, this is the most important page on FacialSurgery.com
for you. Take the time to read it slowly and carefully.
There is a best way for you to select your facial plastic surgeon, and
there are some poor ways. Let's take a look at how people select a
plastic surgeon, and discuss the pros and cons of each method.
The best way:
The best way to select your plastic surgeon is to do your own research.
Take your time. Interview at least two or three plastic surgeons, and see
examples of their work. Look at their before and after pictures. Make sure
you like the results of the doctor's work and that you feel you have a
good rapport with him. That way, you have made a rational, informed
decision for yourself. Don't just blindly take someone else's
recommendation. Anyone who refers you to a plastic surgeon has far less at
stake in the outcome than you do, so it's up to you to take
responsibility for finding the best doctor.
Other ways, mostly unsatisfactory:
Get a recommendation from your family doctor.
Your family doctor is
busy, and probably doesn't make a career out of carefully evaluating
every plastic surgeon in town. He might refer you to a couple plastic
surgeons whom he knows well, and the best plastic surgeon in town
might not get mentioned. Your doctor very possibly does not know
the quality or lack of quality of the plastic surgeons whose names he
Get a recommendation from a satisfied patient.
That patient might be
satisfied with the results he achieved, not knowing that a different
doctor could have done much, much better.
Find out if the doctor is board-certified.
Board certification, by itself, means almost nothing. Remember that the board
certification test is a written test; it does not
evaluate the surgeon's manual dexterity, his artistic talents, whether
he cares about his patients' well-being, or whether his results are
excellent, just passable, or bad. You don't just want a board-certified
doctor, you want a doctor who can deliver excellent results.
Get a referral from a hospital referral line.
A hospital referral
line will send you at random to one of the plastic surgeons who work
at that hospital, but to none of the doctors who don't
work at that hospital. Hospital referral lines don't take skill or patient satisfaction into account at all.
Get a recommendation from your cosmetologist or hair stylist.
Actually, this may be a reasonable way to select a plastic surgeon,
second only to doing your own research. Your cosmetologist is in the
appearance business, sees the scars and the results, isn't afraid to
talk to the clients, and probably has seen and compared the work of
many of the local plastic surgeons. If your cosmetologist is
experienced, it's not a bad place to start.
If you're not sure where to start, you can get
some names from your cosmetologist or from your family doctor, but
remember that you still have to check out the plastic surgeons yourself.
The Yellow Pages will have a complete list of doctors, but remember that
the size and quality of the ad doesn't necessarily correlate with the
skill of the surgeon. If you want to start your research with board
certified plastic surgeons who specialize in the face, call the American
Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at 1-703-549-3223 for a
list of board certified doctors in your area. The ABFPRS is the only board
that sets standards, examines, and certifies surgeons exclusively in facial
plastic and reconstructive surgery, so it's a good place to start if
you're early in your research and looking for a list of doctors to
Interviewing a plastic surgeon
These pointers will work in any plastic
Don't be afraid. It's just an interview. You're not obligated to
have anything done. You're just gathering information. Have fun. Talk
You are the boss. You are hiring the plastic surgeon. He is the
employee, and you are the employer. Don't be intimidated by him.
Don't go to your consultation with a pre-conceived notion of the operation that you
want or need. Many people see a new, sometimes trendy
operation on television, and then visit a plastic surgeon to ask for
that exact operation. It is more in your best interest to show the
plastic surgeon what it is that you are dissatisfied with, and let him
discuss the operations that can address your concerns.
Tasks to accomplish:
Get all the information you can about the operation(s) that you are
considering. What will be done? What will be improved? What cannot be
improved? How much change can he make? Will it be worth it? What are the risks? How long before
you can be back in public? What kind of anesthesia will be used? Where
will the operation be performed? What will it cost? What are your
If the doctor will not patiently and completely answer
all of your questions, simply cross him off your list. You are not
doing this for his convenience. You are the one paying the fees. You
are the one taking the risks. It is the surgeon's responsibility to
make sure that you have all the information you need to make a good
Find out how good the surgeon is. You're there in his office. This
is your chance to find out, and it's the most important information
you will use in selecting your surgeon. You determine how good the
surgeon is by looking at before and after pictures of his own
patients. If you have a big nose, ask to see patients who had big
noses made smaller. If you are a candidate for a face lift, ask to see
pictures of face lift patients that he operated on. We'll discuss the
before and after pictures in more detail below.
If you're very interested but still nervous, ask to talk to some of
the doctor's patients who have had the operation you are considering.
It's a reasonable request, and your doctor can arrange
for you to speak with someone.
Why do you need to see before and after pictures?
Plastic surgeons are like hairdressers or car mechanics or accountants
-- some are exceptional at what they do, and others are inexcusably bad. Pictures will tell you which is which. When a plastic
surgeon gives a presentation to other doctors at a scientific
meeting, he uses before and after pictures of his patients to prove to his
colleagues that his surgical techniques really work in
his hands. You are entitled to the same proof about your surgeon's skill.
You need to see that the doctor has been able to accomplish for someone
else what you want for yourself.
What if the doctor won't show you before and after pictures of patients
on whom he has operated? Well, in our humble opinion, you just need to go
look elsewhere for your plastic surgeon. Any good plastic surgeon
can get permission from some of his patients to show their pictures, and
if you don't see any pictures before surgery, you have no idea how good
the doctor is. Would you hire an artist to paint your portrait without
first seeing any examples of his work? We didn't think
More straight talk about the photographs
If the plastic surgeon that you are interviewing won't show you
photographs, it does not necessarily mean that he is unskilled. He
may be spectacular. It just means that you don't have any evidence,
and you sure need that evidence before trusting a
doctor with your face. You can't get the information you need from a
resume, or the size of an advertisement, or a framed diploma, or the office decor. Without the
proof, you're in the dark.
It is not unethical to show before and after pictures, if the patient
has given permission.
Do the good results you see in photographs guarantee that you will get
the same? No. No surgeon in any field can guarantee the results of an
operation. Everyone's face is
different, and much depends on your particular anatomy and how your face
Then you ask, What about these pictures, though, isn't
my plastic surgeon just
showing me his best stuff? Well, maybe. Probably. But it's not a
drawback in your evaluation of a plastic surgeon if he shows you his best
stuff. If he could do it for someone else, probably he can do it for you.
And the mediocre doctors won't have anything impressive to show you.