Choosing a plastic surgeon
The decision to have plastic surgery is a major one, and not one to be taken lightly: the results may be with you for years to come and have a significant effect on your physical and mental health and well-being. One of the most important factors is your choice of surgeon. It is vital to choose a properly-qualified surgeon with whom you can build a good rapport, and in whom you are happy to place your trust.
Unfortunately, regulation of the cosmetic industry, including plastic surgery, is deficient in this country. The terms ‘cosmetic surgeon’ and ‘aesthetic surgeon’ are not recognised by the Medical Council or the Royal College of Surgeons, and can be used by anyone with a basic medical degree. In Ireland and the UK, only individuals with FRCS (Plast) or FRCSI (Plast) after their name have undergone formal training and internationally-recognised exams in cosmetic surgery. The full title of such a doctor is ‘plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon’, reflecting the various aspects of our speciality. For the sake of brevity, this is often shortened to ‘plastic surgeon’, although not everyone who calls themselves a plastic surgeon holds the appropriate qualifications! This is obviously a confusing situation, but a 3-point check can be done to ensure your plastic surgeon is suitably qualified:
- Does s/he have FRCSI (Plast) or FRCS (Plast) after their name?
A small number of older, well-established surgeons do not as they qualified before the introduction of this exam: such surgeons will fulfill points 2 & 3
- Are they on the Irish Medical Council’s Specialist Register in Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery? This may be checked here.
Be aware that ‘full registration’ is not the same as specialist registration, and that doctors may be on the specialist register in other areas of medicine/ surgery.
- Are they a member of the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS)? All members of this association hold the qualifications and registration as described above, and you can check if your surgeon is a member here.
Remember, there are no guarantees in plastic surgery, any more than there are in other fields of medicine. However with realistic expectations, a surgeon with whom you have a good rapport, and the decision to proceed made without pressure, you are most likely to be satisfied with your result.
The Department of Health has issued guidelines for patients considering cosmetic surgery, which are available from the Medical Council’s website, or can be downloaded here. These recommendations are as follows:
- You should carefully consider the effects you are seeking and research the procedures available prior to a consultation
- If possible, you should seek advice from your General Practitioner (GP) to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for the procedure in question. Your GP will have knowledge of reputable specialist practitioners in your area and can give you impartial advice about choosing a practitioner. Furthermore, your GP can help you to interpret any claims that are made in advertisements.
- If you have a medical condition, allergy or are taking medications your GP will have important information which should be passed to the surgeon.
- Have a consultation with an appropriately registered plastic surgeon. In Ireland, this can be checked by asking for the Medical Council number of your surgeon and examining the online register of medical practitioners (medicalcouncil.ie) Ensure that they are registered on the Specialist register of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic surgery with the Irish Medical Council (www.medicalcouncil.ie). Ask your surgeon if he or she is is a full member of the Irish Association of Plastic surgeons, all of whom have had full specialist training. (www.plasticsurgery.ie)
- If you are considering a cosmetic procedure from a provider outside of Ireland, it is highly recommended that you check with the regulatory authority for medical practitioners in the country to which you intend to travel to confirm that the medical practitioner who will be performing the procedure is appropriately registered in that country. Further information and advice can be obtained from the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities at www.iamra.com
- Consultations should be with the plastic surgeon who will do your procedure and not with a representative from the clinic. Be comfortable with your choice of surgeon.
- Ensure that you fully understand the expected outcome from the procedure, which will come from a thorough consultation with your surgeon. Ensure also that you understand potential complications from your procedure.
- Establish the costs of your procedure and what is included/excluded from these costs. Ensure that you understand what the price of your procedure covers, particularly in terms of aftercare and any revision surgery which may be necessary.
- You should not choose a service on the basis of price alone. Avoid being tempted by the offer of discounted prices/incentives. An advance deposit to secure a surgery date is discouraged
- You should not feel pressured into making a decision to agree to surgery. A cooling‐off period of approximately 7 ‐ 14 days between the consultation and surgery is advisable. You should have a second consultation with your surgeon before making a final decision.
- Prior to any procedure, you should identify what follow‐up care and medical support you will need after surgery has been completed and where this care will be provided. Make sure that there are good arrangements for your aftercare both while you are in hospital and following your discharge. Ensure that you know who to contact if you should have any questions or problems.
- Ensure that you fully understand any agreements or consent forms that you are asked to sign and ensure that all your questions have been answered to your satisfaction before signing.