Plastic Surgery for Beginners
Before the age of the internet you would call your doctor’s office and schedule an appointment if you had a concern about your health. Your physician would ask you about your concerns, examine you, and provide you with treatment that would usually make you feel better. That was then.
These days, when you have an ailment, you open up your computer and surf the internet to try to figure out what may be wrong with you. You type in a few key words on Google search describing your symptoms and you instantly have dozens, if not hundreds of potential diagnoses. You still have to go to your doctor for treatment, but the process of diagnosis and treatment by the doctor is the same.
Plastic surgery is a specialty unlike all others. Routine procedures or annual exams are usually not considered life altering, but cosmetic surgery can be. We are constantly reminded or informed about how we can improve our appearance by the continuous exposure to TV, print, or internet advertisements that offer creams, pills, treatments, devices that promises incredible and unbelievable transformations.
The news, however inundates us with sensational stories of plastic surgery gone wrong. Recently, headlines from Europe describe the implant scandal brought about by the PIP company in France that used industrial silicone to fill their silicone implants. There are also numerous stories about complications or deaths from buttock augmentations performed in non-operating room settings, by non-surgeons or even non-health care providers, using silicone from hardware stores or “Fix-a-Flat” from auto parts stores.
Another problem peculiar to plastic surgery is that industries such as laser companies advertise direct to the consumer, so patients seek out the machinery first with little thought of who is operating it. This sets the stage for disaster because many of the newer procedures are highly technician-dependent; as a consumer, you need to understand that the equipment is only as good as the person operating it.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), 9.1 million women in the United States underwent cosmetic surgery in 2012. If you are anything like the 18 to 80 year olds that have already undergone plastic surgery, you may be thinking about ways to improve your own appearance. Men are also joining the crowd.
After you have decided to undergo your cosmetic procedure, there are professional medical organizations, such as the ASAPS (www.surgery.org) or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS – www.plasticsurgery.org) that will provide you with information about procedures or surgeries that will help to achieve your goals.
Plastic Surgery 101
The only way to deal with plastic surgery advertising is to be a safe and educated consumer. An educated consumer is not vulnerable to charlatans, false advertising and unrealistic promises.
Here is the most important plastic surgery advice: Your cosmetic procedure must be performed by a licensed physician with proper credentials operating in an accredited facility. Seek out a professional organization for information and referrals. ASAPS and ASPS are two such organizations; their missions are educate the public that in the right hands, in the right setting, and on the right patient, cosmetic surgery can have profound physical and psychosocial benefits.
The right hands
If you’re confused about finding a plastic surgeon, you’ve got good reason. Anybody can claim to be a doctor, cosmetic surgeon or plastic surgeon. Your first priority is to check a physician’s credentials to see that his or her training and certification is appropriate for the procedure you want. Certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) ensures in-depth surgical training in all aspects of plastic surgery. U.S. or Canadian membership in The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) or The American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) means a surgeon is ABPS-certified and has met additional requirements for continuing education and experience in cosmetic surgery.
The right setting
Accredited office-based facilities have a safety record comparable to hospital ambulatory surgery settings. If you select a board-certified plastic surgeon from the ASAPS database “Find-a-Surgeon,” you can be sure that the member-surgeons use accredited office-based surgical facilities. Otherwise, ask these questions to make sure your office-based cosmetic surgery is performed in a setting that is safe:
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally or state recognized accrediting agency, or is it state licensed or Medicare certified? Nationally recognized accrediting agencies include the American Society for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC).
- Does your surgeon have privileges at an accredited acute care hospital for the specific procedure you are undergoing?
- If your procedure involves sedation, will it be monitored by registered nursing personnel? If general anesthesia is used it must be administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist.
- Are the emergency equipment and anesthesia monitoring devices in the surgical facility equivalent to those that would be necessary for the same surgical procedure performed in a hospital or freestanding ambulatory surgery center?
- Are provisions made for hospital admission in the event of unforeseen complications? There should be a separate recovery area with monitoring equipment equal to that required by a hospital or ambulatory surgery facility.
- Will there be a doctor and a registered nurse at the site until you are recovered?
- Will the surgeon determine when you are discharged?
The right patient
If you suffer from obesity and consult with a plastic surgeon about liposuction as a way of removing excess pounds and giving you the body you dream of, a good plastic surgeon will tell you to go home and go on a diet. Similarly, if your face is weathered and heavily lined from years of sun exposure and you think a little Botox is your answer the right surgeon will suggest a more realistic treatment. Even more important, the right doctor will not operate on you unless he gets medical clearance from your internist, heart doctor or anyone else who is treating you for a serious medical condition. Simply, as consumers, we are not always the best judges of whether or not we are the “right patient” for a procedure. Remember, you need to be in the right hands in a safe setting, but you also need to be a good candidate for the procedure you’re undergoing. Your first step is consultation with a board-certified surgeon.
Good weather never makes top headlines and neither does good plastic surgery. Good plastic surgery is a specialty that rarely gets notice because it is not very noticeable. And that ideal, pursued in a safe setting, is what you’re seeking.
Information about Dr. Gregory Park’s Credentials can be found within this website.
ASAPS Checklist for plastic surgery: