Ten Questions to Ask Your Plastic Surgeon

People planning plastic surgery should ask their surgeon about his or her experience and training before making their decision to move ahead with the procedure, Toronto facial plastic surgeon Dr. David Ellis tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Dr. Ellis, founder of Toronto’s The Art of Facial Surgery clinic, says patients should ask 10 key questions — not only to bolster their understanding of potential risks and complications but also to ensure their trust in the physician.

It’s imperative to learn about the surgeon’s formal training in the procedure being planned as well as how many times he or she has performed it, says Dr. Ellis, who has been practising in the field for 30 years.

“Patients need to completely understand what they’re going to go through,” he says. “If someone comes in for a rhinoplasty, for example, they need to know their surgeon has a great deal of experience performing such an operation.”

Inquiries should also be made regarding the doctor’s formal training in the area, Dr. Ellis says. There are two levels of education, starting with a fellowship in general plastic surgery and facial plastic surgery, which is advanced education “where you get those skills to become as specialized as you can in the field.”

“For example, in the last 15, 20 years, I’ve been ‘super-training’ other physicians in facial plastic surgery. They assist me on a number of different procedures, including nose jobs, facelifts and eyelid surgery, and work with a high volume of patients,” he says. “When they leave me to practise on their own, they have acquired an additional level of skill and experience.”

Once the patient has a solid understanding of the physician’s credentials, they should inquire about the surgery itself and what to expect around post-operative symptoms and care, whether cosmetic or reconstructive. They include:

  • What are the common problems or complications of the procedure?
  • How are they dealt with?
  • Are there rare and serious complications and, if so, what are they?
  • What is the normal post-operative course, and could that include swelling and bruising?
  • Does the surgeon have pre- and post-operative photos of previous procedures?
  • Will the surgeon be available if there are any further questions, concerns or emergencies?
  • Where will the procedure be performed and is there accreditation for the facility and staff?

“All of this should be explained to patients so they don’t have any unnecessary post-op concerns early on,” Dr. Ellis says. “Contact with the surgeon in the 24 hours after the procedure is certainly important so they have someone to speak with if they feel there’s an emergency.”

In many cases, patients are surprised to learn there may be a significant amount of swelling and bruising soon after an operation like a facelift, which could make the work appear lopsided.

“I go through quite a dissertation with patients explaining what the normal course of post-operative healing looks like so they know what to expect,” Dr. Ellis says.

“When performing cosmetic surgery, you’re going in for improvement, never perfection,” he says, adding he often has to scale back patients’ unrealistic expectations.

Dr. Ellis also encourages patients to conduct their own research on the doctor’s medical training and the number of surgeries they have performed as part of their due diligence.

Before any procedure takes place, he says it’s important that people feel confident they’ve made a good choice in their surgeon, while the physician should be focused on developing “a clear understanding of the patient’s desires to ensure the results will make them happy.”

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