So… you think you need plastic surgery.
If you’re like today’s plastic surgery patient, you’ve already spent a considerable amount of time conferring with Dr. Google about your condition. Perhaps you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ve been wanting a touch up after baby, or perhaps are looking to rejuvenate your face so you can look as long and vivacious as you feel.
Now you’re ready to make the appointment, but first you have to know who to call!
As we talked about previously, plastic surgery is a really broad field, so when choosing a plastic surgeon you’ll want to make sure the person has the specific skills that you are looking for. Let’s break down the training plastic surgeons go through and what that means for you as a patient.
There are two ways that a doctor may become a plastic surgeon. First, they must graduate from medical school. Then they can either complete a general surgery residency followed by a plastic surgery fellowship, or complete a plastic surgery residency. Either path provides the right training! Residency entails several years of intense surgical training in all aspects of plastic surgery. A plastic surgeon coming out of residency should be proficient to practice on their own.
If you’d like to select a plastic surgeon with extra training in a plastic surgery subspecialty such as cosmetic surgery, there are even more specialized fellowships out there. Fellowships are typically only open to those who have finished residency successfully. Fellowships allow surgeons to really zero in on their area of interest whether that be cosmetic, craniofacial, hand, or other subspecialties.
Does a plastic surgeon need a fellowship to practice competently? Well, it depends on the surgeon, but fellowship isn’t necessarily a requirement.
However, any surgeon you choose does NEED to have true plastic surgery training in the form of plastic surgery residency or general surgery residency plus plastic surgery fellowship.
This is important, because there are many folks out there calling themselves “Cosmetic Surgeons”. In truth, these doctors may be dermatologists, general surgeons, OB/GYNs, or others who have done a bit of extra training in cosmetic surgery and are doing cosmetic procedures for the revenue opportunity. They may be fully board certified in their specialty, but if they aren’t a true plastic surgeon, you may want to look elsewhere for your procedure.
Here are some specific qualifications to look for:
Graduation from an accredited plastic surgery residency or fellowship
If you’re looking for a cosmetic procedure, consider a plastic surgeon who has completed a cosmetic/aesthetic surgery fellowship.
If you need breast reconstruction, consider a plastic surgeon with a microsurgery fellowship, so that you have the most reconstructive options available (more on this in a later post).
If you need facial reconstruction, consider a plastic surgeon with a craniofacial fellowship. They have advanced training in the intricate 3D anatomy that comprises the face.
If you need hand surgery, consider a plastic surgeon who has completed a dedicated hand/upper extremity surgery fellowship.
Again, subspecialty fellowships may not be necessary to get top notch care, but it is something to consider when choosing your surgeon!