You’ve done your homework and decided you’re interested in getting a surgical or non-surgical cosmetic procedure. So, what comes next? A consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon.
Just as you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, you should not choose a doctor for your cosmetic surgery, procedure, or treatment without exploring your options. An initial consultation allows you to do just that. In addition to learning more about the procedure you are interested in, it is also an opportunity for you to get a sense of the doctor’s personality and practice before deciding if he or she is the right provider for you.
Book More Than One Consultation
As with most decisions in life, you’ll want to get more than one opinion. You should plan to consult with at least two doctors before moving ahead with your surgery or procedure. When deciding on who to book a plastic surgery consultation with, it is important to first consider the following:
- What is the provider’s board certification(s)?
- Does he or she have hospital privileges?
- Is he or she recommended by someone you trust?
While referrals aren’t mandatory, researching a doctor’s board certification(s) and hospital privileges (yes, even if you’re interested in an outpatient procedure) are musts. Tools like the AEDIT provider network can help you find qualified doctors in your area.
Once you narrow down your search and schedule consultations with the providers you want to meet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind about the process. While it is standard to consult with multiple doctors before settling on ‘the one,’ it is best to not reveal the names of the other doctors you are considering. Similarly, do not share the proposals you receive from one provider with another, for it may influence what they recommend for you.
Questions to Ask During a Cosmetic Surgery Consultation
What should you discuss in the consultation room? From reviewing before-and-after photos to learning about the pre-op and post-op care, below is a guide to the most important questions to ask during a cosmetic surgery consultation to ensure you feel empowered to make the best decision.
Aesthetic & Expertise
1. What procedure(s) do you recommend for me? You may have your heart set on a certain procedure or treatment, but you should plan to have a conversation with your doctor during your consultation about what he or she sees as the best course of action for you and your concerns. The decision is ultimately up to you, but the plastic surgeon will be able to take a more holistic look at the situation and potentially offer a series of options that you are a good candidate for.
2. How often do you perform this procedure? While there are exceptions, it would make sense that the more frequently a provider performs a treatment or procedure, the more time they’ve had to refine their technique and specialize in it. Asking how often they perform the procedure they are recommending or the one you are interested in will help give you a better sense of their expertise.
3. Are there before and after photos available? You’ll be hard pressed to find a plastic surgeon who doesn’t readily offer a look at their previous work in the form of before-and-after photos, but don’t be shy in asking for them. In addition to seeing how the results turned out for different types of patients, you’ll also get a better sense of the doctor’s aesthetic.
4. Would you be willing to put me in touch with previous patients? If the provider you’re consulting with didn’t come recommended from a friend or colleague, asking to speak with an existing patient (preferably one who underwent the same procedure you are interested in) can be a good way to learn more about the doctor, practice, and overall experience.
Cost & Pre-Op Care
5. What is the cost breakdown of this procedure? Because most cosmetic procedures are considered elective, they are not typically covered by insurance. They are also not cheap. Prices can vary dramatically from practice to practice, as can the way the cost is presented. To avoid hidden fees or surprises, ask for a comprehensive overview that includes pre-op and post-op care. While it is impossible to foresee complications, getting a sense of any additional expenses that may pop up (from recovery essentials to additional procedures) will allow you to budget accordingly. With that said, certain cases of rhinoplasty, eyelid procedures, and breast surgeries (to name a few) may be fully or partially subsidized by insurance, so be sure to check with your insurance provider before booking.
6. How many pre-op appointments will be needed? If you’re interested in a surgical procedure, you’ve likely already considered the recovery time that may be required. But what about the time involved with pre-op prep? From bloodwork to imaging, there are tests to be run and assets to be secured prior to going under the knife or needle. Get a sense of what the timeline looks like from the day you book your procedure until your last follow-up appointment to ensure you are able to make the commitment.
7. Is there anything I need to do prior to getting the procedure? Whether you need to lose weight before scheduling a body contouring procedure or press pause on your skincare routine in the days leading up to a treatment, you’ll want to have the provider give you a sense of any pre-operative instructions or guidelines. That way, you can consider how they may impact your daily life.
8. Where will this procedure be performed? Whether your procedure is being performed in a hospital or an outpatient surgery center, you’ll want to ensure the facility is accredited. Both are evaluated for safety by The Joint Commission, though outpatient surgical facilities may also be accredited (voluntarily) by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). If you’re undergoing an outpatient procedure, be sure your doctor has hospital privileges to avoid possible risks in case of an emergency.
9. Does this procedure require anesthesia? In addition to learning whether or not your procedure requires sedation or anesthesia, you’ll also want to know who will be administering it. Be sure there will be a board certified anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist on hand to administer and monitor throughout the procedure. Knowing the type of anesthesia required will also inform whether or not you will need someone to give you a ride home and care for you post-op.
10. What is the protocol if there are serious complications during the procedure? Statistically, even the most qualified doctors performing the most routine procedures can run into complications. One of the reasons it is important to establish that your provider has hospital privileges is in the event there is an emergency during an outpatient procedure. Confirming what processes are in place to deal with unexpected events in the operating room can provide peace of mind.
Recovery & Results
11. What is the downtime associated with this procedure? While there are plenty of minimally invasive procedures that you can schedule during your lunch break, most surgical procedures will require at least a couple days of recuperation. Ask the doctor to break down the recovery period, including how long it will be before you can resume certain levels of activity (from returning to work to exercising) and the side effects (think: pain, swelling, and bruising) you can expect to experience during each phase.
12. Will I receive written post-op instructions? Sure, you may be able to wing the assembly of your IKEA furniture, but recovering from a cosmetic procedure that you just invested a lot of money in is not something you want to do blindly. Most doctors will have written post-operative instructions available for patients that detail everything from pain med and icing schedules to when you can resume basic day-to-day activities (think: showering, laying down, etc.). As simple as it may seem, you want to be sure that you will have something to refer back to when it comes time to navigate the recovery process.
13. Is there a medical professional on call to answer post-op questions? No matter how much research you do beforehand and how thorough the written post-op instructions may be, you can pretty much guarantee that a question (or many!) will arise during the recovery process and require immediate assistance. In addition to good ol’ fashion phone calls, many practices now offer live chats on their websites that allow patients to speak with doctors, physician assistants, and/or nurses in real time. Check with the provider to see what types of services would be available to you.
14. How many follow-up appointments will be necessary? While the exact number of post-op appointments varies by procedure, at least one follow-up is usually needed within the first week. That may be the only check-in needed for, say, an injectable treatment, but surgical patients can expect to meet with their cosmetic surgeon several times in the months following their procedure. Like pre-op care, it is important to have a sense of the timeline prior to booking.
15. How long will it be before I see results? Any doctor will tell you that the healing process, like the procedure itself, depends on the patient, but there are general timelines that can shed some light on when you will start seeing the effects of the procedure and when you can expect a final result. While the results of some procedures are immediate, others can take a year (or more) to fully reveal themselves, so you’ll want to be sure your expectations and patience-level are managed beforehand.
Additional Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Provider
While qualifications and expertise are certainly key components of the decision-making process, there are intangibles related to a provider’s personality, bedside manner, and practice that cannot be underestimated. Even if the provider checks all the boxes above, be sure to also consider the following before choosing who to book your procedure with.
Do you feel comfortable with the doctor?
The doctor doesn’t need to be your best friend, but he or she should put you at ease. In addition to (hopefully) answering all of your questions, consider how you feel when speaking with the provider. Undergoing any procedure (even an elective one) is a big decision, and you should feel respected and empowered throughout the process.
Are you comfortable with the practice and facilities?
Did you wait long in the office before seeing the doctor for your consultation? Did the appointment feel rushed? How was the vibe in the waiting area and patient rooms? Taking notice of how you feel about these kinds of details should play a role in how you go about choosing a provider.
Is the provider's staff professional and courteous?
Truth be told, you’ll probably be interacting more with the practice staff than you will with the doctor. From the receptionist to the nurses, pay attention to your interactions with the entire team and notice how they communicate with the provider. All of this will give you insight into what kind of care you can expect before, during, and after your procedure.
Choosing to undergo a cosmetic surgery procedure is an important decision in and of itself, but finding the right surgeon or doctor for your needs is key to achieving the outcome you desire. Scheduling initial consultations with at least two providers and arriving armed with a list of questions that covers everything from aesthetics and safety to cost and recovery can help you compare and contrast as you narrow down your search.
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