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A recent USA Today exposé on cosmetic surgery procedures sheds light on an alarming trend in the field of elective surgery: the soaring prevalence of non-board-certified doctors performing plastic surgery procedures.  In particular, the report highlights the tragic passing of a 32-year-old mother of six who died shortly after undergoing a “minimally invasive” liposuction procedure with a doctor who lacked any specialized medical training. While we have yet to learn the exact details of this event, it does highlight the finding that an increasing number of doctors trained in fields other than plastic surgery are now dabbling in cosmetic surgical procedures.

No regulation
Unfortunately, even in the U.S. it is perfectly legal for any doctor who possesses a valid medical license to perform cosmetic surgery.  This means that your gynecologist, dentist or eye doctor may also be offering breast augmentations or body contouring on the side, despite lacking the specialized training and education necessary to safely and effectively perform these cosmetic procedures.  These doctors very well may not have the expertise to take care of the potential problems that can arise from cosmetic surgery – especially when it is not done well. Without this basic knowledge, surgical judgment, and technical expertise, it is hard to produce consistently good and safe surgical outcomes.

Why board certification is important
One of the best overall indictors of proper training and education in plastic surgery resides in board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Board certification in plastic surgery is especially important because it requires that plastic surgeons be highly educated and trained before they can become board certified. Plastic surgery programs not only train doctors in these procedures, but also equip them to handle any potential complications that may arise from surgery.  This specialized plastic surgery training extends beyond just surgery; it also helps educate doctors on how to choose patients who are good, safe candidates for plastic surgery.

Focusing on price dangerous
While it may be tempting to price shop when considering plastic surgery, the message is clear.  When you choose a board-certified plastic surgeon, you can be assured that he or she is qualified to perform your cosmetic surgery procedure.  In our practice, we know that education, surgical skill and thorough planning play an important role in minimizing patient risk, which is why our plastic surgery procedures take place in a state-licensed, nationally accredited private operatory.  In an effort to further increase safety, we also use intravenous sedation (rather than general anesthesia), administered under the care of a board-certified M.D. anesthesiologist who is in the operating room for the entire procedure. This high level of care can be a bit more labor intensive, time-consuming and expensive, but we feel it provides our patients with the best surgical outcomes in the safest environment.