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Plastic Surgery Safety

By Sherri Roberts

It’s a safe assumption that most of us wouldn’t choose an eye doctor to conduct the prenatal care and delivery of our children or an obstetrician to perform retina surgery on the delicate structures of our eyes, talented though they may be within their respective specialties. However, you might be surprised to learn that in most states, any doctor with a medical license legally can perform any surgery a patient desires, even if it is not the area in which the physician is trained.

Lax state regulations regarding provider and facility requirements combined with the surging popularity of cosmetic surgery procedures and shrinking insurance reimbursements to physicians have created what many health care leaders and media reports are warning is a Wild West-like landscape in cosmetic surgery. In increasing numbers, physicians with widely varying backgrounds and levels of training—are drifting into performing more financially lucrative aesthetic procedures such as liposuction, sometimes after completing only a weekend training course. Patients may receive mediocre or botched results, but others have suffered serious health issues or, tragically, paid the ultimate price of their lives— an alarming incidence that’s brought the topic widespread attention in the media.

Though risk is inherently present in any surgery, most of these tragic stories involve common variables: doctors who lacked the proper training, equipment, or understanding of anesthesia principles to safely and skillfully carry out the procedures. Appealing advertising, bargain prices, and seemingly trustworthy credentials all can attractively mask such a provider, making it incumbent on consumers to do their homework and understand the crucial information to know in order to make good choices.

COSMETIC PLASTIC SURGERY SAFETY GUIDELINES

In evaluating and selecting a cosmetic surgery physician and facility, it is important to follow these basic guidelines:

  1. The physician is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Many cosmetic surgeons make the claim of being board certified, but their board certification may be in a specialty other than plastic surgery or from a board that lacks rigorous standards. ABPS is the only board for this specific specialty that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, which is recognized for its high standards.
  2. The physician is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). This signifies that a doctor has at least 5 years of surgical training with a minimum of two years in plastic surgery; is trained and experienced in all plastic surgery procedures, including the breast, body, face, and reconstruction; and operates only in accredited medical facilities.
  3. The surgical facility is licensed by the state and accredited by one of the following: The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAASF), The Accredititation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHCO), or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

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