Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How to Choose the Right Plastic Surgeon

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Important Questions to Ask Before You Have Cosmetic Surgery

The majority of deaths that occur within health and medicine are due to negligence or incompetence. In the field of cosmetic plastic surgery, common deaths are related to anesthesia with the highest probability of occurrence being 1 out of 13,000 and lowest 1 out of 300,000. Many of these deaths occur at the hands of non- board certified plastic surgeons who are not working with properly trained anesthesiologists.

“There are hundreds of qualified plastic surgeons available, but unfortunately, some doctors claim to have the expertise without having the training,” says Dr. Heather Furnas, a San Francisco area board certified plastic surgeon. “In an ultra-competitive elective medical profession where every doctor is trying to sell their skills, the real question becomes: How can a patient tell if their physician is really the expert they claim to be?”

Thinking about getting a little nip/tuck? There are many things to consider when making such an important decision. You want to know as much as possible about your prospective surgeon’s skills, experience, and credentials. Be sure to ask these vital questions before taking that leap and going under the knife.

Who’s Your Surgeon?

Personal recommendations are important. Ask friends for referrals if they have gotten a similar procedure. Get opinions from your family doctor and other doctor acquaintances. Surgical technicians and operating room nurses are an excellent source for information about a surgeon's skill in the operating room.

Make sure the surgeon is board certified.

All plastic surgeons are not alike. Plastic surgeons that are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) are uniquely qualified and specially trained. They have been proven to provide the best patient care and have the lowest rates of complications. Do not assume that all doctors who claim to be "board certified" have the same training. Be sure that your doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

If a doctor is certified by the ABPS this means that they are certified in plastic surgery and have met the following requirements:

They have earned a degree from an accredited medical school
They have completed 3 years of general surgery
They have completed 2-3 years of supervised residency in plastic surgery
They have had at least 2 years of professional practice
They have passed rigorous written and oral exams (only about 70 percent of physicians who take the test pass it)

What is the Surgeon's Area of Expertise?

Ask what kind of training the doctor has in the specific procedure you’re considering -you don’t want someone whose only training was a one-day or weekend course.

How Often Have You Done this Procedure?

It seems obvious that nobody would want to be any surgeon’s first liposuction. Ideally, your doctor has done the same procedure hundreds of times, over many years.

What Are the Potential Risks & Complications?

Every surgery carries some risk, some of which are common to all surgery. The most serious risks usually have to do with excessive blood loss, infection, or adverse reactions to general anesthesia. There are some procedures that are riskier than others, although recent advances continue to make complications more and more unlikely. Since plastic surgery is elective, surgeons will usually refuse to operate on any patient for whom they feel the risk is too great.

Do You Have Hospital Privileges?

Even if you're having a plastic surgery procedure at an outpatient clinic, it's worth asking where the doctor has hospital privileges, because hospitals do background checks. Plus, this could become very important if anything unexpected should occur during your procedure, and you needed to be transported to a hospital.

Facility Accreditation

Cosmetic surgery can safely be performed in a hospital, a surgicenter or an office-based surgical facility: Current published data show that accredited office-based facilities have a safety record comparable to that of hospital ambulatory surgery settings. However, the majority of office-based surgical facilities are not accredited. Another advantage of selecting an ASAPS member is that all ASAPS surgeons operate in accredited, state-licensed or Medicare-certified facilities

Are You Allowed to See Before & After Pictures of Other Patients?

It is vital to see many before and after photos from your plastic surgeon in order to evaluate the work that he or she has performed. These photos should subsequently be placed either on the doctor’s web site in galleries or albums in order for patients to review during consultation. Also make sure to ask if the photos shown to you are pictures of actual patients of that particular surgeon and not stock images.

Don’t be impressed by P.C. after a doctor’s name

Dr. Furnas advises the would-be medical consumer, "not to be impressed by a P.C. after the physician's name--it only means that they are incorporated. Jane Doe, M.D., F.A.C.S.', on the other hand, actually tells one something about the qualifications of the physician. The letters FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon's name mean that the surgeon's education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College.

Follow-up Care

Good surgical care does not end with the surgery. For most surgeries, plastic surgeons want to see the results and monitor your progress. Nonsurgical procedures usually require a consistent schedule, so you can maintain your results. You should inquire about follow-up visits and about the doctor’s policies should surgical revisions be necessary.


In 1990, Dr. Furnas was appointed to the plastic surgery faculty at Harvard Medical School. While in Boston, she also established a private practice at the Beth Israel Hospital. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to California and co-founded Plastic Surgery Associates with her husband, Dr. Francisco Canales. Since that time, she has earned a reputation as a skilled and caring plastic surgeon in the local community.

In addition to her practice, Dr. Furnas has also served as the President of the Sonoma County Medical Association, as a delegate to the California Medical Association, and as a member of the editorial board for Sonoma County’s Physician Magazine. She is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, and the prestigious American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Furnas takes her technical skills abroad to serve the needs of children with birth defects in Peru, Honduras, Western Samoa, the Philippines, and El Salvador. Her volunteer efforts were inspired after spending a year in Kenya with her father, a world-renowned plastic surgeon who also volunteered with the East African Flying Doctors.

A true artist at heart, Dr. Furnas has a passion for theatre, ballet, and music. She is also an artist herself and much of her work can be found on display at the practice.

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