Everyone likes a good deal, but the best deal is not always determined by financial variables. Many plastic surgery procedures can be had at cheaper prices, but at what non-monetary cost? Is it a safe and effective to receive a procedure from a non-board certified plastic surgeon?
Board certified plastic surgeons Dr. Tracy Pfeifer of New York City and Dr. Brian Brzowski of Utah discuss the sometimes Wild West-like environment patients find themselves in where safety and great results are sidelined for the best deal.
The Drive to Find a Cheaper Surgeon
For patients just starting out on the road to a cosmetic procedure, there are seemingly unlimited options, information (sometimes contradictory), and “deals” that appear in search engine results. Perhaps a few great reviews for a physician on Yelp, coupled with a “coupon” for breast augmentation surgery, may drive patients into a consultation with a doctor who actually has never trained in surgery before. What was it that ended the research phase?
“Sadly, a lot of the drive to do this is economic – for both the patient and the non-board certified plastic surgeon,” shares Dr. Brzowski. “The patient will usually get a much cheaper price because the non-board plastic surgeon typically charges a lower price. But they’re also doing that procedure because they’re trying to gain and income that their other medical practice isn’t providing. I think it’s a big problem.”
How are Non-Board Certified Physicians Acquiring Breast Implants?
One thing patients may not know is breast implants can be acquired through manufacturers by non-board certified plastic surgeons. For patients not in the know, the fact that a physician’s website may feature breast augmentation surgery and go in-depth about various implants may lead them to believe this person is qualified. This isn’t always the case.
“Unfortunately in the United States, a physician can purchase implants from the manufacturers,” explains Dr. Pfeifer. “Not all of the manufacturers will sell to a non-board certified plastic surgeon, but some will. If you are a general surgeon trained in general surgery, you are not trained in breast augmentation surgery. You really have no business doing those procedures.”
Even Physicians with No Surgical Training Advertise Surgical Procedures
This article has thus far spoken to the problem of non-board certified surgeons performing plastic surgery procedures. Even worse, there are physicians with no surgical training who perform surgery and undercut prices to get patients in the door.
“Certainly if you’re going to have surgery done by someone, they should at least be a surgeon,” says Brzowksi. “Those are the most egregious cases when you don’t even have a surgeon performing your surgery! That extra bit of education and experience that comes from being a board certified plastic surgeon really is necessary when you start talking about these elective procedures that women don’t have to have.”
Dr. Brzowski’s last point is critical – these surgeries are not necessary, but elective. Meaning men and women choose to have cosmetic procedures, and therefore are willingly subjecting themselves to surgery. Patients may believe that cosmetic surgical procedures are “safer” in a sense because they’re elective and the purpose is aesthetic.
What all patients need to realize is surgery is serious business. This is why cutting costs to save a little bit of money is a dangerous proposition. If you’re going to subject yourself to a very serious experience, wouldn’t you want to pay for the best to make sure all of your bases are best covered?
Patient Education is Critical
Since surgery is serious, so should be the research and education process for patients. Thankfully with the internet, there are an immense amount of resources available. Procedure and surgeon reviews, forums where patients share their experiences, surgeon websites full of video and explanatory articles to prep patients – all of these are there to be used by patients. Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is always the first box to check off when researching a surgeon.
“I always tell patients that you need to look for a surgeon who has hospital privileges to perform the procedure they want to perform on you,” share Pfeifer. “The hospital will not grant privileges to an improperly trained doctor to perform that procedure.”
Beyond board certification, it’s important for patients to next verify that the surgeon has vast experience in the procedure they’re considering. Some board certified plastic surgeons may concentrate on certain procedures exclusively and not others. If you’re seeking out a breast augmentation, a surgeon who specializes in nose surgery and hardly performs breast augmentation probably isn’t the best bet.
These parameters start to grow once the research quest begins in earnest, but it is imperative that patients seek out those who are board certified. Not only will the results be superior, but patient safety will be held as a primary concern.