Considering plastic surgery and worried about a botched job? A new public awareness campaign by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons urges prospective patients to pick a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (check credentials at plasticsurgery.org).
Lacking that key credential is red flag #1, say plastic surgeons Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, president of the society, and Dr. Anthony Youn, who practices in suburban Detroit. But that's just one of 10 red flags to watch for. Keep clicking to see the doctors' complete list...
Red flag #2: Offering discount coupons
Discount coupons make sense if you're looking for a haircut or a massage - but maybe not for plastic surgery. "Don't bargain price when it comes to something serious like surgery," Dr. Youn says.
Red flag #3: Trying to "up-sell" patients
An initial consultation with a plastic surgeon should be a collaborative effort, in which doctor and patient come to an agreement about which course of treatment is best. Dr. Roth says it's reasonable for the surgeon to suggest alternative approaches, but that it's worrisome if he/she uses high-pressure tactics. "Surgeons who try to convince you to have more surgery that you want may be just trying to squeeze as much money from you as possible," warns Dr. Youn.
Red flag #4: Advertising heavily
Some excellent plastic surgeons advertise their services. But Dr. Roth and Dr. Youn agree that plastic surgeons who advertise heavily - on radio, TV, in newspapers, etc. - may do so because they don't get the good word of mouth that provide a steady stream of patients. "The number of ads a surgeon displays is often inversely proportional to the quality of the doctor," Dr. Youn says.
Red flag #5: Lacking hospital privileges
Hospitals consider doctors' skill and training before granting privileges. If a surgeon lacks privileges, it may be evidence that the hospital is dubious of his/her ability. Some surgeons get around the problem by performing surgery in their offices - which may not be the safest place.
"Let the hospital vet your surgeon for you," says Dr. Youn. "If a hospital won
Red flag #6: Promising results "too good to be true"
The old adage "If it's too good to be true, it probably is" certainly applies to plastic surgery, Drs. Youn and Roth say. "Don't believe hype," says Dr. Roth. "There are no guarantees, and even the best surgeons can have a result that is less than perfect." Read up on the procedure you're considering to know what it can and cannot do. Pay close attention to outsized claims, Dr. Youn says - for example, saying liposuction will tighten loose skin or a breast implant can lift sagging breasts.
Red flag #7: Bungling the consultation
Consider it a bad sign if a doctor leaves it to an assistant to meet with patients to discuss surgical options. Ditto if a doctor rushes his/her patients through consultations. The surgeon should be the one to decide whether you are a good candidate for surgery. And he/she should take time to answer all your questions without rushing you out the door.
Red flag #8: Boasting about "innovative" techniques
Although plastic surgery is constantly evolving, most surgeons use the same basic techniques - because they are proven safe and effective. Beware surgeons who say they use "innovative" or "revolutionary" procedures.
Red flag #9: Being censured or sued
Just because a surgeon has faced a malpractice lawsuit doesn't mean he/she is incompetent. In today's medical climate, even first-rate surgeons are sometimes sued. But be wary of a surgeon who has been sued more than a few times, says Dr. Youn. Ditto if he/she has been censured by the state medical board.
Red flag #10: Getting bad reviews
Patients aren't always the best judges of a plastic surgeon's abilities - no doctor can please all his/her patients. Be suspicious of a doctor who gets lots of bad reviews from patients. Speaking of bad reviews that sometimes show up on doctor rating sites, Dr. Youn says, "Those ratings may be for real." On the other hand, Dr. Roth says that bad reviews may be "plants" from competitors. So maybe best not to put too much stock on those ratings whether they're good or bad.