Before embarking on elective plastic surgery, you have choices to make. Who will perform your surgery? Where will your surgeon operate? How much will you pay?
The choices you make will depend on your priorities, but if your top priority is low cost, you might not be making the best decision. Why? Believe it or not, safety costs money.
Who will perform your surgery?
Lots of surgeons may do the procedure you want, and some may be temptingly less than others, but there may be an important difference. Their training and ongoing education. If you need bladder surgery, you would want to go to a board-certified urologist. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you have plastic surgery, you should look for a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Here’s why board certification in plastic surgery is so important: It takes years of training and rigorous examinations to become a board-certified plastic surgeon, but that’s not all. To maintain their ASPS membership and hospital privileges, plastic surgeons must complete a minimum of 150 Continuing Medical Education (CME) hours every three years, with 20 hours devoted to Patient Safety.
That training and continuing education can impact you and your safety. Just as the best-trained pilots not only know how to fly a plane, they are better able to prevent problems and handle them if they do arise. The same is true in surgery. The surgeon who has invested in the most comprehensive training is more likely to assess your risk for complications and use protective measures to prevent them. For example, they may use special leg massagers (“sequential compression devices”) to prevent blood clots from forming.
To take advantage of potential discounts for multiple procedures, it makes sense, doesn’t it, to have as many procedures at once as you can afford? It would if we were talking about having your house cleaned. But humans are different. The longer surgery lasts, the greater the risks, some of them potentially fatal, so the well-trained surgeon is less likely to offer you that multiple-procedure “deal.”
If you have a surgical complication, you’ll want someone responsive who will take care of you. If your surgeon says they don’t have complications, look for someone who will tell you the truth.
Where will your surgeon operate?
The walls don’t do the surgery, it’s true, but your safety is dependent on more than your surgeon’s hands. An accredited facility has all equipment essential for an unexpected emergency, and it must have current safety and emergency protocols in place. And there is no slacking since it must be re-accredited every three years. These costs are an investment in your safety.
In the United States and Canada, you can look for facilities accredited by agencies, like AAAASF, AAAHC, IMQ, JHACO and Medicare. But if you are going abroad, the rules vary.
It is tempting to fly elsewhere to have surgery performed for a fraction of what it costs in the States, but what you don’t know can hurt you. Even the best surgeon’s skills won’t make up for a facility that doesn’t adhere to sterility standards or that uses old equipment that isn’t regularly maintained.
Would you fly on an airline whose pilots didn’t receive the training to operate the plane in which you’re seated? As in the airline industry, developing countries have limited resources for rigorous training, updated equipment and regular facility inspections. Even if you know friends who have a great experience, the thing to look at is what happens if something goes wrong. Who will be handling the emergency and how? Recent reports of unusual infections and deaths in the Dominican Republic emphasize that your life may depend on the answer.
How much will you pay?
Now you can see why choosing the cheapest surgery can end up being very costly. If you can’t afford to have plastic surgery by the best-trained surgeon in the safest facility, then do yourself a favor and save up, borrow the funds or don’t have surgery at all.
You deserve the best!
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.