There’s a reason we schedule a preoperative consultation with every one of our patients. Helping you understand exactly what to expect before, during, and after your procedure is a key component of ensuring you’re satisfied with your cosmetic surgery experience.Dr. Vallecillos with patient

The best thing you can do as a patient is prepare for this consultation ahead of time. Write down every question you have, no matter how trivial it might seem. When it comes to making a life-altering decision like plastic surgery, there’s no such thing as too much information. Bring a method for recording the surgeon’s answers, as well, whether it’s pen and paper or an electronic device, you want to be able to access answers later. This is especially true if you’re “shopping around” for a surgeon and want to compare notes before making your final decision.

To get you started, we offer seven questions you should ask during your consultation. Any other questions you want to ask are fine, of course, but you definitely want to know the answers to the following seven items.

1. Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?

If the procedure you want is surgical in nature, such as breast implants, a tummy tuck, or rhinoplasty, choosing a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is vital. This certification guarantees that the surgeon has the training, experience, and qualifications to perform your chosen procedure safely. This is an important factor, as the United States allows any licensed physician to perform cosmetic procedures, regardless of experience or training in the field.

Board certification guarantees not only training and expertise in the field, but also that the doctor’s operating facility meets state guidelines as regards safety.

2. Am I a good candidate for this procedure?

The truth is, not everyone is a candidate for every cosmetic procedure. Body type, skin type, age, weight, and medical history all play a part in determining whether someone makes a good candidate for a particular procedure. For example, if you are in the process of losing weight, you are not a good candidate for a tummy tuck, as the procedure works best on patients who have maintained their ideal weight for at least two months. The same is true for women planning to have children in the future. Or, if you underwent rhinoplasty within the past 12 months, it is too soon to undergo revision rhinoplasty, as changes continue throughout the first year following this surgery.

3. How often do you perform this procedure?

 

A plastic surgeon with a great deal of experience in performing your chosen procedure or procedures offers expertise in the practice. He or she will have performed the procedure on a wide variety of patients, meaning the surgeon has a well-developed understanding of different skin types, body types, and ages, and which surgical techniques might suit which type best. A doctor with a detailed history performing your chosen procedure should also have abundant before and after photos available for your review.

4. What do I need to do to get the best results?

The truth is, your surgeon can only do so much. As a patient, you must take some level of responsibility for the outcome, which requires fulfilling certain responsibilities before and after your procedure.

Your surgeon provides detailed instructions for before and after care; follow these exactly. For example, if your doctor tells you not to exercise for two weeks following your procedure, don’t exercise for two weeks following your procedure. Some activities, though seemingly harmless, negatively impact your healing. Trust your doctor when he or she warns against performing certain activities.

5. What are the risks of this procedure?

Every medical procedure carries some amount of risk. If you smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or are obese, those risks increase. The more common risks for cosmetic surgery include:

  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia, such as blood clots
  • Bruising or fluid build-up
  • Infection
  • Mild to significant bleeding
  • Nerve damage, which may cause numbness or a tingling sensation, and may be permanent
  • Scarring

6. What is the recovery time?

A true understanding of your recovery time is essential, as is what to expect during that recovery time. Some surgeries require weeks of being away from your normal routine, and may pull you away from work and even parenting duties if you have small children. Knowing how long this will last, and what restrictions your recovery includes, helps you determine the right time to schedule your procedure.

You may also work with your surgeon to determine a less invasive procedure, if the recovery time is simply not manageable for your current lifestyle.

7. What is my total cost?

These are elective procedures, meaning that insurance will not typically absorb any of the cost. Common costs inherent in cosmetic procedures include the surgeon’s fee, materials cost, anesthesia, and possibly a charge for the operating room. Pricing varies greatly depending on the procedure and the doctor. Ask the surgeon for an itemized quote that includes a “good by” date, so you have time to consider your decision.

It is important to note that surgery is not the time for bargain hunting. Yes, you want a procedure you can afford, but any surgeon quoting you a price significantly lower than other doctors in your area is saving money somewhere. He or she may cut corners with safety, hire inadequate staff, or use inferior materials. Be very wary of pricing that seems too good to be true.

If price is an issue, ask the doctor if he or she offers financing for your procedure. Many plastic surgeons offer this service and even have on-site staff to work with patients on financing.

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