How to choose a qualified plastic surgeon

I am often asked how does one choose a plastic surgeon?How to choose a qualified plastic surgeon

Below is an example of one of those questions where I present my professional opinion as the answer. ~ RJC

If you have any questions you would like addressed, please do so at the bottom of this article/post in the comments section. All questions will not be answered, however those selected will be posted, as appropriate, on my blog.


Dear Dr. Choucair,

I have only one simple question. How do I make an educated choice and select a qualified plastic surgeon?

JH, Plano, Texas


Dear JH,

Choosing a plastic surgeon is not simple. Did you know that any physician can claim to be a plastic surgeon? There are no clear guidelines regarding self-designation of specialty in medicine. With a willing patient, any licensed physician may legally do plastic surgery. It truly is “buyers beware.” It comes down to the following question: Whom do you want doing plastic surgery on you?

To help determine the answer I would like to present to you various questions to consider on your quest in selecting a qualified plastic surgeon.

What does board certified mean?

It depends on what board you are referring to. A physician may be board certified, but the real question is: In what field of medicine is the physician’s certification? The official boards are traditionally listed under the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This represents the 24 approved medical specialty boards. Certification within an ABMS board represents stringent criteria for education and examinations to ensure competence in a particular field.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the official board that certifies surgeons who have completed a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency. Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery indicates a minimum of five years of training in the surgical specialties with at least two years of training dedicated to a plastic surgery residency. Additionally, it means the surgeon has voluntarily submitted to written and oral examinations to become board certified.

The consumer has a right to know that surgeons are not equally trained to do plastic surgery. There clearly is a difference. At the very least, the term board certification is confusing to the public and often to individuals who have a medical background. A toll-free number to the American Board of Plastic Surgery will assure you that you have a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (215-587-9322). In addition, you may check the board website.

A surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic surgery is not a guarantee of a perfect result, but certification at least represents a minimum of training and competence required by written and oral examinations in the field of plastic surgery. One question that should be a priority for any individual considering cosmetic surgery is “Are you certified by an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS Board) and if so what field of medicine?”


Do Your Research.
Since the most single important choice relating to the success and safety of cosmetic surgery is the plastic surgeon you choose, spending time researching is only logical. Unfortunately, not all cosmetic surgery patients spend time researching their plastic surgeon.

Plastic surgery services are not commodities. In other words, it is not like picking out a car or a pair of shoes. There are real differences in training, experience and dedication to the field of aesthetic surgery. Again, a starting point is choosing a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Furthermore, you may check with state medical boards and determine whether formal complaints, sanctions or license restraints have been placed on a physician.

Hospital Privileges.
You should ask whether the surgeon has hospital privileges to perform plastic surgery procedures. Many surgeons will perform surgeries in their own office or surgery center because they do not have privileges to do these in an acute care hospital. If the surgeon has credentials to do surgery in an approved hospital it usually indicates that he or she is properly trained.

Another important factor is the surgeon’s experience. Plastic surgeons’ additional membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery indicates a surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and has significant experience with cosmetic surgery of the face and body. You can determine if your surgeon is a member by calling 888-272-7711 or going to the website,

The Surgical Facility.
Where your surgery is performed also has a bearing upon the safety and success of your procedure. Any facility you are considering should be accredited by a recognized accreditation body or be state licensed. Most hospitals at a minimum are accredited. In addition, some office operating rooms may not be accredited. You should check with your surgeon regarding accreditation of any facility where you will be having surgery.

Type of Anesthesia.
Another question to ask is what type of anesthesia will be administered and whether an anesthesiologist (medical doctor) or a nurse anesthetist will administer the anesthetic. A patient has the right to know which professional will be taking care of them during the surgery.

Area of Expertise and How Many Procedures Annually? 
Other questions include asking the surgeon if there is a particular area of expertise in his practice. Furthermore, how many of these procedures does the surgeon perform per year? Certainly the risks of the particular type of surgery you are contemplating are important and should be discussed completely and provided to you in written form. Recovery time should be clearly understood as this can be an area of disappointment after surgery if unexpected situations occur.

The Extreme Makeover.
Recently there is significant interest and emphasis on “extreme makeovers.” Many cases depicted on popular television programs can trivialize the seriousness of multiple procedures done in a setting where the patient could be at an increased risk. There is no clear answer regarding how many procedures are “too many” to be performed in the same operative setting. While it is common to do multiple procedures on the face at one time, removing excessive volumes of fat with liposuction in addition to doing breast and facial work may be too much, especially if performed in an outpatient surgical center without monitoring by a board certified anesthesiologist. You should ask your surgeon about the risks of multiple procedures and clearly understand the implications.


Ramsey J. Choucair, M.D.,
Dallas, Texas, U.S. A.