Why is Board Certification in Plastic Surgery important for you?

Caveat Emptor = Latin for, “Let the buyer beware”.

Unfortunately cosmetic surgery is essentially the wild west, Plastic Surgery: The Wild West of Medicine , with very few if any restrictions or oversight as to who may operate on you. Many patients are surprised to learn that any medical doctor, regardless of training, can legally perform “plastic surgery” and call her or himself a “plastic surgeon”. Although their name may be listed under Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the Yellow Pages they may not have completed ANY training in the speciality!  

These physicians essentially misinform you by stating they are “board certified”. However they don’t highlight in what field they are Board Certified (Family Practice, ER, ObGYN).  Doctors may claim to be certified by the “American Board of Cosmetic Surgery” (Not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialities as a “credible” certification because the training of its members is not supervised, credentialed or possibly even valid) Recently the California Board of Medicine voted unanimously voted to deny recognition of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. California Medical Board Votes Down ABCS

In this geographic area there are Ear Nose and Throat doctors performing breast augmentation,  ER doctor performing facelifts, and ObGYN performing liposuction. These doctors often perform procedures in their offices because a credential committee (group that validates training) of a hospital would not permit them to perform these services in an Operating Room due to of lack of training. Furthermore if you were to have a complication requiring admission to the hospital these doctors may not even be able to admit you as they may not even have ANY hospital admitting privileges.

Just because your surgeon is on TV doesnt make him/her any good either. Many of the Plastic Surgeons you see on Dr. 90210, Discovery, Swan etc. are not board certified. See this video from the USA Today on how the lack of training can be deadly: USA Today Article on Plastic Surgery

So how can you protect yourself? Start with understanding credentials. Make sure your Plastic Surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This Board is  recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the governing board of all physician training in the US. ABMS Website “What is Board Certification”   It requires minimum 6 years of surgical training, 3 years in Plastic Surgery specifically. There is a rigorous Written and Oral Board examination on cosmetic and reconstructive surgery where experts examine the surgeons own patients outcomes. The failure rate of the oral board examination is 23%! Imagine that, after 6-8 years of training and minimum 1 year of active practice, and passing a rigorous written examination, about 23% of surgeons fail to pass the certification exam. A few never pass. (No wonder these other doctors take the easy way out and just call themselves Plastic Surgeons!)

Additionally Board Certified Plastic Surgeons are required to operate in only accredited facilities, required to perform continuing education, adhere to a strict code of ethics, and are highly trained in all aspects of Plastic Surgery.

So if you go to a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon are you going to get good results? Not always. You need to go one step past Board Certification. Ask lots of questions, look at before and after photos, call their previous patients, and go with your “gut”. As Malcolm Gladwell proposed in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without ThinkingGladwell Summary ,  you’ll know in the first minute whether or not this is the right doctor for you based on your adaptive unconscious.

Good luck, be smart, and be safe.

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