As the popularity of cosmetic procedures continues to rise, unqualified individuals looking to cash in on the growing market are setting up shop and practicing what may amount to “fake” plastic surgery. These practitioners may endanger the lives and the health of patients across the nation, patients attracted to a good deal over qualifications. Today, more than ever, if you’re considering plastic surgery, it’s important that you do your homework and ask the right questions before you proceed with any plastic surgery.
Fake Plastic Surgery in the News
In August of 2016, a Denver man was arrested for portraying himself as a licensed doctor and performing medical procedures without a license. The 36 year-old surgical assistant was running a plastic surgery practice for over a year before he was charged. His unsuspecting patients were left to deal with bad surgical outcomes – the unfortunate results of poorly done plastic surgery.
When you think of a fake plastic surgeon, you might picture a person operating out of their home, perhaps in a poorly lit basement. The truth is, not all frauds are so easy to spot. Some individuals impersonating surgeons, like the one in Denver, have websites that look professional and boast non-existent credentials. They may have good reviews on physician-rating websites and may operate in fully-staffed offices equipped with elaborate surgical rooms. The question arises – how do you make sure a plastic surgeon is qualified?
Patient Responsibility: Research
The first step towards identifying a fraudulent surgeon is asking the right questions. “I think it’s up to the public sometimes to understand, and take responsibility, for understanding who is doing the procedure,” points out Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Camille Cash. To protect yourself and to achieve the best possible results, it’s important that you get all the facts up front, before you trust someone with the role of enhancing your appearance.
Questions to Answer Before Proceeding with a Plastic Surgeon
- Is the surgeon board certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Are they allowed to do this procedure in a hospital?
- What experience and training do they have?
- What outcome can I expect?
A surgeon’s list of qualifications and certifications easily confuses patients unfamiliar with the field of plastic surgery. While many credentials sound impressive, they don’t all carry equal weight. Understanding which qualifications matter is an important step in validating a surgeon’s credentials.
Dr. Dustin Reid of Austin urges patients to pay special attention to board certifications. “Always look carefully for board certification. Specifically, for a board that is part of the American Board of Medical Specialties, in our case, in plastic surgery, that is the American Board of Plastic Surgery. If you look for those two things, then you can feel confident that you are going to a surgeon that has been trained.” The American Board of Plastic Surgery has a website that makes it easy to verify your surgeon’s board certification.
Hospitals in the United States have a screening process in place to protect patients. Prior to allowing a surgeon to operate in their facility, a hospital board verifies a doctor’s academic records, medical licenses and evaluates a physician’s experience and competence in specific procedures. The end result of this screening process is a list of privileges for a surgeon at each hospital they operate within. These privileges clearly define the procedures a surgeon is allowed to do within the facility.
“In order to gain privileges at a hospital, you also have to pass peer review,”explains Florida plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Pinsky. “Essentially, what that means is that there’s a body of surgeons who say, ‘Yes, that doctor has the appropriate credentials to do this in our facility.’”
Even if you choose to have a minor procedure done in the surgeon’s office that doesn’t require a surgical facility, awareness of a surgeon’s hospital privileges at a local hospital is one method of achieving a level of assurance that your surgeon is properly credentialed, in general.
Physician vs. Plastic Surgeon
Some physicians call themselves plastic surgeons without undergoing any extensive training in plastic surgery. “If you operate in your office, because of restrictive trade laws, physicians are allowed to do whatever they want,” warns Dr. Pinsky. Any physician, he adds, could practice brain surgery or plastic surgery inside of their own office, as the only legal requirement is a medical license.
As a result of these trade laws, a doctor who attends a weekend seminar on breast augmentation could call himself a plastic surgeon and offer breast enhancement in his office. This poses significant risks to uninformed patients. Unlike physicians with only a general medical school background, board certified plastic surgeons have had many years – often a decade or more – of training and residencies specific to surgery and plastic surgery.
An Ounce of Prevention
When it comes to any elective surgery, and plastic surgery in particular, choosing a surgeon is all about reducing risks and increasing your chance of a great outcome. By taking the time to investigate a potential surgeon’s experience, certification, and hospital privileges, you can save yourself the heartache of a bad outcome and avoid becoming the victim of fake plastic surgery, and ultimately need revisional surgeries to correct the mistake.