How To Make Sure Your Next Plastic Surgery Is Safe

If you’re dumb, you forget that plastic surgery is surgery with an extra word in front of it, a doctor tells CNN in their article on getting nip/tucked safely. As with any surgery, there’s no real way to make it completely safe, but here are five tips from their article that you should follow to improve your odds. In fact, they’re probably good tips for any kind of surgical procedure.

  1. Make sure the doctor is board certified by one of the major professional organizations in his field.
  2. Make sure the doctor’s office is accredited by a national group that inspects facilities to ensure they’re safe.
  3. Ask about prevention plans for complications. With plastic surgery, the big risk comes from deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  4. Confirm that your doctor has privileges at a hospital to perform the procedure. Even if he’s not going to perform the procedure at the hospital, the hospital should trust him enough to extend those privileges to him. If he says no, say so long. If he says yes, confirm it with the hospital.
  5. Find out how many times the doctor has performed the procedure. Compare his experience with other doctors in the area.

Update: Heather, who claims she works in the plastic surgery industry, wrote in to provide more information and to highlight the two list items she thinks are most important:

#1 is most important. For plastic surgery, patients should verify that the surgeon is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon (US). This can be done by visiting the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s website- In order to become a member of the ASPS, the doctor must be a board certified plastic surgeon and meet additional criteria.

It is very important to note that there are MANY doctors performing plastic surgery (liposuction, breast augmentations, etc.) that are not board certified plastic surgeons. Essentially in the US, any board certified doctor (General Surgery, Dermatology, ENT, etc) can perform plastic surgery.

Many horror stories from plastic surgery arise from non-plastic surgeons. While I am not clear what happened in Ms. Argentina, most people do know about Kanye West’s mother. She originally visited a plastic surgeon who said she was not clear to have surgery at that time and needed further attention from her cardiologist. For whatever reason, she selected a different surgeon (not a board certified plastic surgeon) to perform her operation. While, I am sure there are many non-plastic surgeons who perform plastic surgery very well, you do need to question why that doctor did not take the time to acquire the official training necessary.

#4 is very important as well. The surgeon needs to have privileges at a hospital to perform plastic surgery, even if he is not doing the surgery in the hospital. A hospital will only provide privileges to Board Certified Plastic Surgeons to perform plastic surgery in their hospital.

If the doctor is lacking hospital privileges, but does meet accreditation for his/her own operating room, that is simply not enough.

Also, be sure to check out our commenter NickelMD’s advice below on how to prepare a realistic risk-assessment before making any decision on cosmetic surgery.

“What really killed the beauty queen?” [CNN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. hotdogsunrise says:

    Why is the lizard man eating her? Or is he just really upset at the thought of her getting plastic surgery, so much so that he must growl angrily in her ear?

  2. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Any surgery has risks. General anesthesia is risky. I can’t believe some of these procedures are outpatient. I could hardly believe laparascopic gallbladder removal was outpatient. When mine was over, I sure in the hell didn’t feel like getting up and going home. Until the narcs kicked in, that is.

    • Julia789 says:

      Many procedures are done under “twilight anesthesia” rather than general anesthesia, which is a bit safer. Some are done with local anesthesia only, and some can be done with epidural.

    • Benny Gesserit says:

      I guess it varies from patient to patient.

      About 3 weeks ago, I went to Emerg with pain Tues and Thurs PM, returned Fri AM, had a gallstone removed via scope Fri PM, gall bladder removed via “lap” Sat PM. I woke up Sunday PM a little shaky but not bad. Got up, “freshened” and had breakfast (first food since Thursday PM.) When surgeon did her rounds, I asked if I could go home. She OK’d it as my blood was approaching normal.

      Was prescribed dilaudid but it was too strong – wasn’t in much pain so switched to extra-strength Acetaminophen.

      A week at home resting and I was ready to go back to work. I suppose I’m the textbook success story.

  3. sir_eccles says:

    Hi Dr Nick…

  4. mommiest says:

    I knew a woman who was having plastic surgery. Her father was an attorney in the same state. He told her which surgeons to avoid after reviewing malpractice cases for her. Seems like a good way to stay away from the butchers.

    • tbax929 says:

      If you have a friend in the insurance industry, they can tell you the same thing. Insuring doctors for years has taught me which ones are good and which ones are constantly getting sued.

  5. yagisencho says:

    Our daughter had a chalazion (eyelid cyst) removed shortly after turning 2 years old. Thankfully, while the procedure required general anethesia, the surgery was performed by her eye doctor, not a plastic surgeon. Waiting during her surgery was still one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life.

    • Julia789 says:

      Been there – when my son was a year old he had to be put under for a lung procedure (he kept getting pneumonia, they wanted to scope out his lungs with a camera and take samples for testing.) When they carried him off for the surgery, I threw up. I never felt so helpless in my life, and out of control. It was a huge sigh of relief when they called me into the recovery room and I could hold him in rocking chair while he woke up.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Oh, I think I had one of these when I was a kid too. There was something going on and they came to my eye with this big needle. It was absolutely terrifying, but I think I got cookies and a stuffed animal afterward for not crying (much).

  6. TechnoDestructo says:

    How is a doctor supposed to gain experience in a procedure if everyone wants someone who’s done a lot of them? Do plastic surgeries usually have two doctors participating (one junior one senior)?

  7. Dondegroovily says:

    The most important thing to remember about plastic surgery – If a mechanic screws up a car repair, you can get a new car. If Geek Squad kills your laptop, you can get a new laptop. If the surgeon screws you up, you can’t get a new body. At least, no until they download our brains into robots.

  8. Benny Gesserit says:

    I’d add a “5b” – has the doctor got experience with your gender?

    Instead of the family fortune, I inherited my Mom’s droopy upper eye-lids. Right now they’re starting to rest on the lashes but someday I’ll likely have to have them cut back or something.

    Several people have told me the same thing: find a surgeon who’s got experience with male eye work. Some famous people could have used that advice (cof cof Kenny Rogers cof)

    • ZeusThaber says:

      “you gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”

    • SugarMag says:

      I’ve had four reconstructive eyelid surgeries, with two more to go.

      I go to an eye doctor with a subset speciality of reconstructive plastic surgery. He does a lot with lids – upper and lower – since they can interfere with you seeing out. If it falls in the medical your insurance will cover it.

      I have a disfiguring eye disease. I like that he knows me medically and also helps my appearance – a side effect of the disease.

      Consider a “real” eye doc when you start looking into it. I trust them more for some reason.

      Note: I’m awake for the surgeries except for when the big needle nerve block goes in. Thankfully I get an amnesiac for that! I also love that I’m super nearsighted when they wheel me in.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The most terrifying surgery I’ve ever had was when I got my wisdom teeth taken out. I had never had anesthesia before and it was just horrible slipping away, then waking up only what I perceived to be moments later, and feeling really trapped. It’s not something I want to do again.

    • phonic says:

      Funny. The only time I ever had anesthesia was when I had my wisdom teeth pulled too. I went to an oral surgeon since one was really bad. I had local, nitrous, plus the IV (I went with the platinum package!). I asked “do I just count backwards from 10 or something?” He said “no, it’s more like you just won’t remember anything. Kind of hard to explain until you are done.” So they get me all ready, and I lie back. I’m still completely with it, so I mention this as I feel him prodding my mouth with a stick. He has them raise the drip a bit. They put this cloth over my eyes for protection (from flying debris I guess?) and I continue to feel him looking around. I don’t feel sleepy or anything weird at all. I’m waiting for it to kick in. Next thing I know, they take the cloth off from eyes. I ask what’s happening? They said I’m done. WHAT? I don’t remember losing conciousness at all. I am a little physically droggy, and when I move a little lightheaded, but not too bad. The procedure took about 30mins, and they said I talked to them a little during it too. It was like 30mins of my life was cut out and the ends were spliced together. No ill effects, nor any regrets about choosing this method.

      • webweazel says:

        Yeah, really weird. Where you said that it was like “30mins of my life was cut out and the ends were spliced together” that hit it right on the head. I’ve had anesthesia before, and they usually told me to do the counting backwards from 10 thing. I would get to about 7, then wake up later continuing on to 6, 5, 4,
        “–oh you’re done.”
        “What? Done? But I never went out.”
        “You were out for 45 minutes.”
        “No I wasn’t.”

      • tonberryqueen says:

        My experience, too, with both wisdom teeth and tonsillectomy.

        Although I think I must have had lighter anesthesia for the former than the latter. I felt completely with it as soon as I woke up from the wisdom teeth extraction. The oral surgeon had to push me back down into the chair, because I felt so good and clear-headed. I sat there getting antsy for ten minutes, waiting for him to let me up to walk around.

        …now, with the tonsils, I fell back asleep twice after coming out from under anesthesia.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I had almost the exact same experience: wisdom teeth getting pulled, 1st time getting any kind of anesthesia, and being scared to death by the sensation of going under. It felt like what I thought dying would feel like and it scared me so bad fought against it (I was given gas and I tried to stop breathing it in). I would regret that halfway through the doctor doing the injections but he gave me more gas after he saw I was in pain.

      The gallbladder surgery started off more like phonic’s experience. The last thing I remember thinking was that I was going to have to tell the doctors that I was still awake. When I came to I was conscious for what felt like a long time before I was able to move. I think the only reason that didn’t freak me out is because it felt like I was still too tired to move instead of paralyzed.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Oh, but when I was properly up again I felt so sick to my stomach they had to give me something. Within 10 minutes of the ‘push’ into my IV I was too tired to stay awake.

  10. NickelMD says:

    Everything in medicine from taking a tylenol to cardiac bypass has risks benefits and alternatives. Plastics is no different. And to be honest life is no different. Even when you go to see your doctor for a UTI you are taking a risk. Driving there you could be in a fatal car accident, but you accept that risk because of the benefit of seeing your doctor and being treated. We just generally don’t think of these things as risk benefit analyses.

    So when you consider plastic surgery (or any invasive treatment), a good method is to sit down and make a list of the benefits, risks, and alternatives. Do a little research and do this before you go in for your consult appointment. Show the list to your doctor and they can help you refine it.

    For example:
    Tummy tuck:
    Benefits: feel better about myself, be able to be comfortable wearing a swimsuit at the beach, make my partner happy, fit into clothes that I want, not get that yeast rash under my belly in the summer. Risks: general anesthesia, pain after surgery, allergic reaction to medicines, bleeding, scarring, time off from work to recover, risk of a chronic pain syndrome. Alternatives: therapy to make me feel better, a binder, wearing different clothes.

    Then (and this is what you can get from your doctor too) assign a risk to those. For example, serious complications of general anesthesia (if you are healthy) is about 1:500,000, the benefit of your body image might be 90%. Then weigh those and see what you want to do.

    Lastly, more important than your doctor’s malpractice record (which is important but can be deceiving) – it may be more due to a bad bedside manner than technical skill, make sure you feel comfortable with your surgeon. If you go in and your spidey sense triggers, see someone else. Trust your gut, but use your brain. And don’t feel bad about being vain. We all are, and the people who complain about that tend to be the ones who have pretty nice bodies. Its your body and your choice.

  11. ElizabethD says:

    When my primary-care doc was referring me to a plastic surgeon for breast reduction surgery (yes, some of us actually do have them made smaller!), I asked him why he was so sure this particular surgeon was the best in town, as he claimed.

    “He did my wife’s breasts.”

    That was good enough for me. (And he was right; the surgeon was excellent.) On a related note: For years I’ve routinely asked my doc, when being referred to specialists: “Which gynecologist/dermatologist/whatever would you send your wife or daughter to?” It gets me some great answers.