Woman examining complexion


Perhaps you’re one of the many people who’ve secretly considered plastic surgery. You stand before the mirror and gently push up on your jowls, just to see what a little lift might look like. Or you save an article about a new procedure—just in case.

Making a decision about plastic surgery is not simple. There’s a lot to consider: risk, potential results, recovery and cost. There’s also the task of finding the right surgeon to perform the procedure.

Plastic surgeons themselves recognize the complexity of weighing all the information and making a careful decision, and they have some suggestions about how to sort through your options.

“There are all kinds of garbage out there being advertised,” says Dr. Bruce White, a board-certified plastic surgeon with St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery. “You need to see a plastic surgeon, and you need to be sure that he (or she) is board-certified.” That’s the primary message shared by other area plastic surgeons, who caution against having any invasive procedures performed by physicians who are not board-certified in plastic surgery.

Since its establishment in 1937, more than 8,000 surgeons have taken exams and participated in continuing medical education required for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which is the only plastic surgery board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The board’s website (abplsurg.org) provides a search tool for users who want to check the certification status of a particular surgeon or find local board-certified surgeons.

“This board has a very high standard for its members, and frowns on false advertising, cautions against non-FDA approved devices, and promotes safety in plastic surgery,” says Dr. Judith Gurley, a St. Louis plastic surgeon who has been certified since 2001.

Another local board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michele Koo, adds a caveat: “I would make sure whoever is providing the services or claims is certified in what they claim to be doing.” In other words, some physicians who are board-certified in other medical specialties or are certified by organizations other than the American Board of Plastic Surgery may advertise cosmetic procedures. “Make sure the certification is in the field you’re looking to have the procedure or service,” Koo adds.

A second, or even third, opinion may be a good idea, especially if you have any doubts or concerns about an initial consultation, White notes. “You have to rely on your gut feeling,” he says. “If you don’t think that person is straightforward or honest, you very well may be right, and you should make an appointment with a different plastic surgeon.”

However, to make sure your initial consultation goes as well as possible, Gurley urges people to do their homework prior to the appointment. “Ask your doctors and friends about the reputation of your board-certified plastic surgeon,” she advises. “Visit the surgeon’s website. Make certain you see countless before and after photographs so you are comfortable with your surgeon’s technical skills and you are assured that your idea of beauty matches that of your surgeon’s.”

And then be willing to listen. “Let (the surgeon) make the determination of what is the ideal procedure for the results you want,” Koo says. “You might not like what you hear: She or he will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”