What to Ask a Cosmetic Surgeon: 5 Essential Questions to ask at your Cosmetic Surgery Consult

September 29, 2014 |

iStock_000021939422_MediumEvery cosmetic surgery success story starts with a successful consultation: your one-on-one conversation with a cosmetic surgeon.

In our experience, patients who ask plenty of questions get the most out of their consultation, and are often more satisfied with the choices they end up making. While there are no wrong questions to ask at a cosmetic surgery consultation, there are some key questions that you should include on your list when meeting with potential surgeons. These are questions that help you decide whether or not cosmetic surgery is right for you and can help you to ensure your safety and appearance are in capable hands.

Don’t leave a consultation until you’ve asked (and gotten satisfactory answers to) these 5 questions:

1. Are you board certified in cosmetic surgery?

Why you need to ask this question: When you confirm that a cosmetic surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, this answers a number of other important questions about that surgeon’s training, experience, and commitment to patient safety.

The frightening truth is that in the US, any licensed physician can legally perform a cosmetic procedure—even a doctor who has never had any training in cosmetic surgery! One of the most effective ways to help ensure your surgery will be performed by a qualified individual in a safe setting is to choose a board certified cosmetic surgeon.

Board certification isn’t just a status obtained by taking a test, it’s a testament to having achieved a certain level of training, experience, and expertise in the specialty of cosmetic surgery. Those who are board certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery have completed, at minimum, a 12-month cosmetic surgery fellowship training in all aspects of cosmetic surgery in addition to surgical residency in a related medical speciality. Moreover, the ABCS only certifies cosmetic surgeons who perform surgical procedures in fully accredited, state-licensed surgical facilities.

If you visit a surgeon who is board certified in a related field, such as plastic surgery, be sure to inquire about any specific cosmetic surgery training and experience that individual has undergone. (Not all plastic surgeons have comprehensive cosmetic surgery training; classic plastic surgery certification is weighted towards experience with reconstructive procedures.)

2. How frequently do you perform the procedure(s) I want?

Why this question is important: You want to ensure that the cosmetic surgeon you choose is well-matched to deliver the outcome you desire.

It is common for cosmetic surgeons to specialize in certain types of procedures, such as facial cosmetic surgery. Consider the benefits of choosing a cosmetic surgeon who performs the procedure you are interested in as a large percentage of his or her practice: that surgeon will be more likely to have worked with a variety of patients with different body types and will also likely be skilled in the most current techniques.

Plus, the more times a cosmetic surgeon has performed your desired procedure, the more before and after photos there will be for you to view at the consultation to get a sense for his or her aesthetic style, helping you to better decide if you like what you see.

3. What type of anesthesia will I receive, and who will provide my anesthesia?

Why you need to ask this question: Discussing anesthesia options will help you prepare physically and mentally for a safe, smooth procedure.

While cosmetic surgeons vary in the type of anesthesia they use depending on the nature of the procedure and an individual patient’s needs, all cosmetic surgeries will require some type of anesthesia.

Both local anesthesia (usually performed with the patient under sedation) and general anesthesia are statistically very safe when performed by a qualified provider. The best type of anesthesia for any given patient is unique. While local anesthesia does offer certain advantages, such as a shorter initial recovery, general anesthesia is usually necessary for more complex procedures, such as abdominoplasty, a full facelift, or when multiple procedures are being performed.

No matter what type of anesthesia a cosmetic surgeon recommends, be sure to ask your potential surgeon who will be administering your anesthesia. This person should be a board certified physician (MD / DO) anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). Having a dedicated anesthesiology team ensures you have qualified professionals monitoring you throughout your procedure and allows the cosmetic surgeon to focus on achieving your desired outcome.

This is another great reason to limit your search to board certified cosmetic surgeons—ABCS certified surgeons only work with licensed, trained anesthesiology professionals in accredited surgical facilities.

4. What will my recovery be like?

Why you need to ask this question: You need to understand the details of the recovery process to decide whether this is the right time for you to have a cosmetic procedure.

Ask the cosmetic surgeon how much time you can expect to take away from your normal activities, including work, childcare, and exercise. Before you schedule surgery, you need to be sure you can handle being somewhat “out of commission” for a few days or weeks, depending on how complex a procedure you are considering.

Part of this discussion should include what specific restrictions you can expect. For example, most patients need to avoid lifting heavy objects (including small children) for a few weeks after surgery. If the given physical limitations or amount of time needed for recovery make you anxious, share your feelings with your doctor. It could be that postponing surgery or less invasive procedures are in your best interest: your cosmetic surgeon can explain alternatives and help you determine what’s best given your current goals.

5. What will be the total cost of my procedure?

Why you need to ask this question: Because cosmetic surgery is elective, you can expect to be responsible for all fees.

The total price for any surgical procedure will include surgeon’s fees, anesthesia, operating room expenses, and any materials involved, such as breast implants. Each patient’s situation is unique, and the price for a procedure will vary depending on your specific needs and goals. Geography makes a difference too: just as the cost of living in L.A. differs from that in a smaller town, cosmetic surgery prices vary too. (Check out our Pricing Calculator for cosmetic surgery price ranges.) A reputable cosmetic surgeon will provide you with a detailed, individualized fee quote, which is usually good for a month after your consultation, to give you time to think about your options.

While price should factor into your decision whether or not to have a procedure—after all, you need to be prepared to cover the costs—never choose a cosmetic surgeon based on price alone. Beware of any fee quote that sounds too good to be true: unscrupulous doctors offering discount cosmetic surgery may cut corners on operating room life safety measures or have inadequate support staff, making “bargain shopping” a very risky endeavor.

If cost is a concern, instead of looking for a bargain, ask the cosmetic surgeon you think is most qualified to help you about their financing options. There are a number of financing plans designed for cosmetic surgery patients, allowing you to make monthly payments for your procedure. Most practices have a staff member who specializes in coordinating patient financing to help you apply for a plan that best suits your financial needs.

No doubt you’ll have plenty of other things you’ll want to discuss with each cosmetic surgeon you visit, in addition to a number of questions you’ll want to ask yourself to help you decide whose practice setting, experience, and aesthetic sensibilities best meet your needs. Our consultation checklist is a great tool to help you compare cosmetic surgeons you consult with.

Ready to start asking those questions? Get started by finding a board certified cosmetic surgeon near you. Best wishes for a safe, successful journey toward your new look!