Introduction to choosing a plastic surgeon

Choosing the right plastic surgeon is a key factor for ensuring the best outcomes from surgery. There are many considerations a person should make when choosing a plastic surgeon.

Surgeon qualifications and experience

In particular, it is important to ensure that the plastic surgeon of choice is properly qualified and registered with an appropriate plastic surgery association. In Australia, plastic surgeons are certified by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, which requires plastic surgery practitioners to have the following experience and qualifications:

  • At least 12 years of education and training, seven years of which must have been completed after medical school;
  • A minimum of five years specialist training and education in plastic surgery;
  • Holds a fellowship with the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, the board that regulates all surgical practitioners in Australia; and
  • Fulfils continuing medical education requirements to ensure their skills are up to date.

Who else can perform the surgery?

In Australia any medical professional is legally able to perform surgery if the person undergoing surgery, or their legal representative if they are a minor, consents. It is therefore important to determine the doctor’s qualifications and experience before consenting to a procedure.

However, remember that using a qualified surgeon does not guarantee a successful outcome as there are inherent risks in all procedures. Rather, it minimises the likelihood of complications related to the surgery.

What about plastic surgery overseas?

Choosing a plastic surgeonSome individuals may consider using a plastic surgeon based outside Australia, as plastic surgery procedures may cost less in other countries. When doing so, it is important to consider potential additional costs associated with travel and accommodation for the surgery and any follow up appointments.

Also bear in mind that regulatory frameworks may not be as strict in other countries as they are in Australia.

Questions to ask a plastic surgeon

There are many questions to ask a potential plastic surgeon to help determine if they are the right doctor to perform the operation:

  • Is the surgeon fully certified?
  • Does the surgeon have specialist training in plastic surgery? In which specialty did they undergo training? For how long did they train and how comprehensive was the training? How relevant is this training to the plastic surgery procedure which they intend to perform?
  • At which hospital/s does the surgeon have arrangements to operate? Facilities in which plastic surgery is performed should adhere to strict safety standards. In Australia, facilities which undertake plastic surgery should be registered with the State Department of Health and the Australian Council of Health Care Standards;
  • Will a qualified anaesthetist be used? Are the anaesthetist’s fees included in the costs of treatment?
  • How many times has the surgeon performed the same procedure in the past? How often have they performed the procedure recently?
  • How will the procedure be performed? Do they have a consent form outlining how the procedure will be performed?

It is useful to prepare a list of questions to ask their plastic surgeon and make notes during the consultation so as not to forget the answers. Some people might be concerned they will offend the surgeon with these questions. However, qualified surgeons will welcome questions about their own experience which help someone to make an informed decision about undergoing plastic surgery.

What to expect of a plastic surgeon

Choosing a plastic surgeonThe plastic surgeon is a medical professional who can give accurate and objective information about surgical procedures, to enable individuals to make informed consent. Plastic surgeons will also:

  • Answer questions thoroughly;
  • Encourage individuals considering surgery to express their thoughts and opinion about plastic surgery and listen to them;
  • Provide information on alternative treatments where these are available;
  • Clearly detail the potential risks of surgery and the likelihood of risks occurring;
  • Provide information to the individual about the procedure which they are considering;
  • Allow the patient to decide whether or not to undergo surgery.

Other considerations when choosing a plastic surgeon

Individuals trying to choose a plastic surgeon may also benefit from:

  • Talking to friends or family who have undergone similar procedures and asking about the plastic surgeon who performed their operation;
  • Calling a hospital for information about qualified surgeons practicing at the hospital;
  • Contacting the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, who can provide a list of qualified surgeons operating in their area.


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  2. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Home page [online]. 2009 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL:
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  4. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Planning your surgery [online]. 2009 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL:
  5. UK Government Department of Health. Considering plastic surgery [online]. 2007 [cited 10 May 2010]. Available from URL:
  6. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Reconstructive plastic surgery procedures at a glance [online]. 2008 [cited 5 May 2010]. Available from URL: 
  7. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Procedures overview [online]. 2009 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL:
  8. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What should you know abut the safety of outpatient surgery? [online]. 2000 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL: Patients_and_Consumers/ Plastic_Surgery_FAQs/ What_should_you_know_about_the_safety_of_outpatient_surgery.html

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