Choosing the the right surgeon to perform your rhinoplasty is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Yet how do you really know that you are making the best choice? Do you select the doctor with the lowest price or the doctor with the most Yelp reviews? What about the doctor who has the most experience? Or ultimately, is it simply better to follow your gut?
Having been through two rhinoplasty surgeries, I have made the mistake of choosing the wrong surgeon, and discovered what it takes to choose the right one. What I learned from these experiences is that at the very least, your surgeon must possess skills, experience, training, creativity, and an aesthetic sense of beauty in order to achieve an attractive result. However, a beautifully shaped nose is of no use if you are unable to breathe through it. Therefore, your surgeon should not only know how to create a cosmetically attractive nose, but also a functional one.
Think that’s all there is to it? Think again!
The numerous traits mentioned above do not guarantee a successful outcome. If you want your rhinoplasty done right the first time around, or you are already in need of a revision specialist, I have put together 5 essential tips for choosing the right rhinoplasty surgeon.
1. Credentials are important
If you’re shopping around for a rhinoplasty surgeon for the first time, it’s quite easy to be swayed by affordable prices and amazing “before and after” pictures. Don’t be dazzled by the marketing pitch. Rhinoplasty is a serious surgical operation and must be performed only by certified doctors. In fact, it’s not enough to choose a facial plastic surgeon. You will also want to choose an otolaryngologist (ENT), which is someone who knows and specializes in the structural physiology of the nose. However, most procedures performed by otolaryngologists do not have an aesthetic consideration. Therefore, a surgeon who is both a facial plastic surgeon and ENT physician will have an edge over a plain plastic surgeon or a plain ENT physician. This is because a double-certified expert will have knowledge of the nose’s internal structure and its biological functioning as well as an aesthetic vision.
Speaking of credentials, take note of differences between board certifications. Facial plastic surgery is not the same as plain plastic surgery. Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeons are expert surgeons with at least 6 years of surgical training focused exclusively on the face. On the other hand, Board Certified Plastic Surgeons have surgical training directed towards the entire body with a relatively small portion focused on the face. At the same time, plastic surgery is different from cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic Surgeons are a mixed group of surgeons and non-surgeons performing elective cosmetic procedures and surgery. Many Internists, Dermatologists, OBGYNs, and other medical specialists have entered the field of “Cosmetic Surgery.” There is no such specialty as “Cosmetic Surgery” as there is no residency program dedicated towards this discipline. This is a relatively newly coined term supported by the new American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, which is not an ABMS Board nor supported in any state in the US.
After learning about these differences in my research, I would now advise anyone to steer clear of board certified cosmetic surgeons. If you are wanting to get cosmetic surgery on a part of your body, than seek a plastic surgeon. However, if you are getting work done on your face, than be sure to see a board certified facial plastic surgeon. The exception to this rule is if you are having a rhinoplasty. In this case, it’s not enough to see a facial plastic surgeon, but as I’ve already mentioned, someone who is also a board certified ENT. Just remember, credentials don’t guarantee a positive outcome. There’s no law against poor artistic judgment or surgical mediocrity, and thousands of patients (including me) have learned this lesson the hard way.
Dr. Anil Shah, the doctor who performed my revision surgery is both a Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon and a certified otolaryngologist (ENT). This extensive training provides him with unique expertise in the cosmetic, functional and reconstructive needs of the nose. However, what sets Dr. Shah apart from other ENT’s and facial plastic surgeons is his artistic eye. Not only was I able to breathe better after the rhinoplasty, but I finally have the cute nose I have always wanted.:)
2. There is no one standard of beauty.
In my numerous consultations with different rhinoplasty surgeons, I discovered that there are doctors who really listen to their patients and there are those who insist on the results that they want for you. A truly talented plastic surgeon knows that there is no single standard of beauty. A nose that looks perfectly cute on one face can look completely disproportional when placed on another face. Of course, plastic surgeons are experts in facial symmetry and will know what kind of nose is ideal with your facial features.
Dr. Anil Shah shared his thoughts with me on what he thinks is best for my face but what sets him apart from other surgeons is that he also took the same amount of time to listen to what I want. Other surgeons will only tell you what is “wrong” with your nose and suggest you fix these defects. Dr. Shah, like a true genius, found a way to combine his knowledge of facial harmony and the nose shape that I personally want. Letting me be part of the decision-making process like this, was unfortunately something that my first plastic surgeon never took the time to do.
3. Know where to look for reliable third-party reviews.
One of the best ways to get an idea about the kind of service you can expect is to read reviews online. Yelp is a popular site when it comes to business and merchant reviews but I can honestly say that it’s not your most reliable destination. This is because Yelp filters out some reviews, particularly positive ones written by real customers. I know this because I have tried to write a positive review of Dr. Shah, and several other businesses, but they would always get filtered. You’ll have a better chance of reading fair reviews at RealSelf.com, Google Reviews, RateMDs, and PatientFusion.
Aside from reviews, awards won are also a sign of an excellent reputation. Dr. Shah for instance has acquired many awards and recognitions over the years, including recognition as one of Top Doctors Magazine’s top physicians in the United States.
4. Rhinoplasty should be the surgeon’s focus of expertise.
Did you know that according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average number of rhinoplasties performed by a Board Certified Plastic surgeon is only 12 per year? Many times, these surgeons will specialize in “boob jobs” or liposuction, and simply perform the occasional rhinoplasty on the side. However, the complex nature of rhinoplasty demands a specialist who performs this surgery on a nearly exclusive basis. “Dabbling” or occasionally performing rhinoplasties is risky and often results in a poor outcome As the saying goes, there is no substitute for experience.
My revision rhinoplasty surgeon, Dr. Anil Shah, performed 308 rhinplasty surgeries last year alone, putting him in the top 1% of all plastic surgeons. And over his lifetime, he has performed thousands of rhinoplasty procedures. If you are not able to see Dr. Shah, make sure that your surgeon performs hundreds of rhinoplasty surgeries a year.
5. The most expensive and experienced surgeon is not necessarily the best.
This statement obviously contradicts my previous advice but let me explain:
My first rhinoplasty taught me something that I never would have learned otherwise and this is that pricier surgeons with more experience are not necessarily the best. Of course, it’s very easy to assume that the most expensive surgery is the best one. After all, you get what you pay for, right? Wrong! My first surgeon was not only in practice longer than Dr. Shah, but was also more expensive. What I learned is that a more expensive procedure could simply mean that the surgeon is driven by money, and not a true love for his work. I also noticed a correlation between the doctor’s rates and the amount of time spent on patients. The more expensive surgeons tend to be the ones that spend less time with each individual patient since he/she is busy moving on to the next case. The sad reality is, many of the most expensive surgeons are mostly motivated by money, and not passion for their work!
While Dr. Shah is not the least expensive rhinoplasty surgeon, he is certainly not the most expensive surgeon either. Given his training, background and credentials, he’s surprisingly affordable. More importantly, he is extremely experienced in both primary and revision rhinoplasty. He has performed thousands of rhinoplasty and revision rhinoplasty operations in the span of his career. As mentioned preivously, Dr. Shah performed 308 rhinoplasties, where the national average is just 12 a year. Yet unlike some “experienced” surgeons who look like they should be in a retirement community, Dr. Shah is in the prime of his life and career. Given rhinoplasty is extremely complex and mentally challenging, it’s important to have an experienced surgeon, but also one that is on top of their game. My best analogy is Michael Jordan, who was the best basketball player of all time. In his prime, he was unstoppable, but two decades later, despite the extra experience, he would get his butt kicked by the younger, players. Athough a rhinoplasty surgery is not physically demanding like basketball, it mentally demanding. An older surgeon can brag about their many decades of experience, they won’t be as sharp mentally as they were in their prime. It’s best to choose a surgeon like Dr. Anil Shah, who’s old enough to have tons of experience, but still young enough to be vibrant, fresh, and at mentally as his best.
So there you have it! These are the things I’ve learned from my rhinoplasty journey. These are also the things I wish I knew before going in for my first (and disappointing) procedure. As I’ve said, I’m not a rhinoplasty surgeon but I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve spent countless hours researching and interviewing rhinoplasty surgeons and have undergone not one, but two, procedures. I know what it’s like to pick the wrong surgeon but fortunately, I have also acquired the knowledge and expertise necessary to pick the best surgeon. If you are not able to fly to Chicago to meet with Dr. Shah, then please keep all these pointers in mind when choosing a surgeon.