Would you go ever go to a dentist for a facelift? Or visit a dermatologist for a nose job? Probably not—at least, not knowingly. Unfortunately, a growing number of people looking to get facial plastic surgery are going to see doctors who do not specialize in the procedures that they wish to get. You may ask: if these doctors don’t specialize in the procedures, then why are they allowed to perform them in the first place? As frightening as it may sound, it is not illegal for doctors to perform elective cosmetic surgeries like facelifts and rhinoplasties, even if they lack the necessary cosmetic surgery training. The growing number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed by surgeons who don’t specialize in the procedure is causing a growing trend of botched surgeries. Botched results range from superficial conditions (e.g. a nose shape that is not what you desired) to more serious deformities like blindness. Some cases even result to the accidental death of the patient.
If you’re planning to undergo rhinoplasty surgery then you definitely don’t want to be part of this unfortunate trend. One of the most important things you can do is to do a thorough research about rhinoplasty to learn as much as you can about the procedure. For instance, most people use the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” interchangeably, without knowing that they are very different from each other. Here are some more helpful information to help you determine if the surgeon is qualified or not.
General Plastic Surgery vs. Facial Plastic Surgery
Those framed diplomas and certifications lining your doctor’s wall may seem impressive, but they don’t necessarily signify a qualified or talented surgeon. What you should look for is a doctor who is certified in Plastic Surgery or Facial Plastic Surgery. Both these disciplines require extensive training and education before certifications can be granted, meaning the doctor has undergone both. A doctor who is “Board Certified in Cosmetic Surgery” is a completely different story. If the doctor has certification in Facial Plastic Surgery or General Plastic Surgery, there is a high probability that the doctor has excelled academically and clinically in Medical School. He has also undergone the required residency and post-residency training. Many of these doctors are also Alpha Omega Alpha graduates. Both Facial and General Plastic Surgery are highly competitive fields, which is why doctors who earn a certification are quite sought after when it comes to residency. Needless to say, these two certifications are a good start in evaluating the credentials of a surgeon. However, keep in mind that they don’t necessarily guarantee good technical skills or an eye for aesthetic details.
The next thing you will need to do is ask the surgeon what his specialty or area of surgical interest is. Just as importantly, you will also want to find out how much percentage of his practice is devoted to facial plastic surgery. This is because a Certified Plastic Surgeon is not necessarily proficient in plastic surgery to the face. He may be a superb surgeon when it comes to liposuction, breast augmentation and other non-facial surgical procedures, but is not very experienced in facial plastic surgeries. General plastic surgeons (who perform on the entire body) do have intensive five to six years of training, but only a small portion of this time is devoted to the facial area. On the other hand, Certified Facial Plastic Surgeons (like Dr. Anil Shah) devote six years of training for the face and neck alone. So although both Facial and General Plastic Surgeons are qualified to perform rhinoplasties, it is more sensible to go with the doctor who has more experience and training in the procedure you are looking to get done.
The Real Meaning of “Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon”
If you noticed, the above section only talks about General Plastic Surgeons and Facial Plastic Surgeons. The term “Cosmetic Surgeon” is not mentioned, and this is for a very good reason.
A Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon does not have the same surgical training as Facial and General Plastic Surgeon. In fact, a Cosmetic Surgeon may not even be a surgeon at all. Sounds scary, right? Sure, you need to be a doctor to earn a certification in cosmetic surgery, but it doesn’t require you to have any background in surgery at all. In fact, requirements to earn cosmetic surgery credentials can be as little as a week of apprenticeship. It is even common for many doctors to simply take a weekend course on how to perform liposuction or operate certain laser surgical equipment. After this incredibly short training, they will then take a test and if they pass, voila! They can now call themselves Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeons.
So if a surgeon advertises himself as a Cosmetic Surgeon, don’t be fooled by the fancy title. This could mean that he simply took a weekend course and an exam. The difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery is as huge as night and day.
The Best Qualifications for Rhinoplasty
So with all these confusing and interchangeable terms, how do you choose a doctor who is qualified enough to perform your rhinoplasty surgery? As mentioned, there are currently no laws in the United States that require doctors to practice only in the areas they are trained in. To put it simply, if you want to undergo rhinoplasty, choose a Facial Plastic Surgeon who is also certified in otolaryngology or ENT. Being an ENT physician gives a surgeon an edge over other Facial Plastic Surgeons since it also means he is skilled and knowledgeable in the inner workings and physiology of the nose.
The bottom line: if you are considering any type of bodily surgery then see a Certified Plastic Surgeon. If it is rhinoplasty that you are looking to have done, look for a Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon who is also an ENT Physician. There have been too many scary stories of patients suffering from botched rhinoplasties due to surgeons who are just “dabbling” or experimenting in a field that is outside their field of expertise.
Interestingly, a Double Certification in both Facial Plastic Surgery and ENT does not guarantee excellent results. Both my primary rhinoplasty surgeon (whom I will not name) and revision rhinoplasty doctor—Dr. Anil Shah—had double certifications. However, my first surgery led to disappointing results and my second one, which was performed by Dr. Shah, was truly a success. Check out my other post where I discuss the five important things you should look for in a rhinoplasty surgeon.