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Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

If you decide you may be a candidate for plastic surgery, the most important decision you will make is to choose a skilled plastic surgeon in whom you can place your trust.

Always check your doctor's credentials to ensure that he or she is adequately trained and experienced in the procedure you are considering. In most states, any physician with a medical license can advertise as a plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon and perform plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures.

The information in this article will give you a good idea of what to look for in selecting a plastic surgeon with the proper training and experience to help you achieve your goals, and includes ways to verify the credentials of physicians, anesthesiologists and operating suites.

Board Certification

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is one of 24 specialty boards that comprise the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). A physician who is "board-certified" can be certified by any of these 24 boards that represent medical specialties. It is important to make sure that your plastic surgeon is board-certified in plastic surgery by the ABPS.

Choosing a plastic surgeon board-certified by the ABPS assures you that your doctor has completed extensive training and passed rigorous examinations. Physicians must meet several requirements to be board-certified by the ABPS:

  • Graduate from an accredited medical school.
  • Complete at least an additional 5 years as a resident surgeon. This period must include a minimum of 2 years of residency in plastic surgery and a minimum of 3 years of residency in general surgery.
  • Successfully complete written and oral examinations, including a review of their cases for the past year.

You can verify that your plastic surgeon is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery by visiting the American Board of Medical Specialties website at or by calling 1-866-ASK-ABMS (1-866-275-2267). Visitors to the website must register (for free) before using the service. The search listings will tell you which specialty board certifies your doctor.

Professional Organizations

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world. All ASPS physician members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). The membership of the ASPS includes 97% of plastic surgeons in the United States who are certified by the ABPS. You can confirm that your plastic surgeon is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons at the ASPS website.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) is the leading professional organization of plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) who specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery. The ASAPS has 2,600 members worldwide. You can verify that your plastic surgeon is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery at the ASAPS website.

Anesthesiologist Certification

If you have general anesthesia, you can make sure that your anesthesiologist is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) by calling (866) 999-7501. The ABA examines and certifies physicians who complete an accredited program of anesthesiology training in the United States and voluntarily apply for certification or maintenance of certification.

If your doctor uses a nurse anesthetist, you can make sure they are certified by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) by calling (855) 526-2262. The AANA represents more than 44,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) nationwide.

Operating Suite Accreditation

Most plastic surgeries are performed as outpatient procedures in the doctor's office or an outpatient surgery facility rather than in a hospital. Outpatient facilities may be accredited by national or state agencies, licensed by the state or certified by Medicare. National accrediting agencies for outpatient facilities include:

  • The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF). You can search for facilities accredited by the AAAASF at Outpatient surgery facilities accredited by the AAAASF must meet stringent national standards for equipment, operating room safety, personnel and surgeon credentials.
  • The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). You can search for organizations accredited by the AAAHC at by name, specialty (e.g., plastic surgery) and other criteria. The AAAHC accredits more than 5,000 organizations in a wide variety of ambulatory health care settings.
  • The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). You can search for health care organizations accredited by the JCAHO at The JCAHO is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Hospital Privileges

Ask your plastic surgeon if he or she has privileges to perform plastic surgery procedures at an accredited hospital. In order to obtain hospital privileges, surgeons must be found competent and capable of performing specific procedures by a hospital review committee consisting of medical colleagues.

Your Plastic Surgery Consultation

The consultation with a plastic surgeon is your opportunity to ask questions, receive expert advice and determine if you are comfortable placing your trust in his or her hands. The surgeon should fully answer all of your questions, carefully listen to the goals you have for your appearance and explain the different options that are available. The surgeon should give you the full details of the recommended plastic surgery procedure and show you before-and-after photos of their work with previous patients.

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