What Questions to Ask Your Plastic Surgeon?
It is normal to have lots of questions before undergoing surgery and it is always important to discuss these with your surgeon. You should feel confident in asking your surgeon any questions you might have and they should be competent to answer each question in detail. Remember, no question is too big or small and you deserve a detailed response to put your mind at ease. If you are considering surgery Dr Hunt has suggested some of the best questions you should ask your surgeon and the responses you can expect.
1. Are you a fully qualified plastic surgeon?
In Australia, surgical procedures can be performed by anybody who has a medical degree. To be a fully qualified surgeon, you need to be a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) and if you are considering a plastic surgical procedure, then they need to be registered with the College of Surgeons as a plastic surgeon.
Plastic surgeons will also be members of other societies such as The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or The Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS).
When you see letters such as FRACS or ASAPS or ASPS after the doctor’s name it means they are members of these societies and you can be assured that this person is trained to the highest standard.
2. How many times have you performed this procedure?
Different surgeons will have different areas of expertise and will perform procedures to a different degree. It is undoubted that it takes a number of surgical procedures to be performed to have a full understanding of the subtleties of the procedure and deliver the most predictable results.
You should feel confident asking your doctor how many times they have performed this procedure in the last 12 months, and this will give you an indication of their level of experience.
3. Where will the procedure be performed?
Some procedures can be performed under a local anaesthetic in the office while other larger procedures will require admission to a hospital.
You need to be comfortable with the level of anaesthetic that your surgeon is providing your procedure under. If a general anaesthetic or sedation is required, then an anaesthetist will need to be involved and the procedure should be performed in a fully accredited surgical facility. To not maintain this standard is potentially compromising your care and the patient has a right to expect to be looked after to the highest standard possible.
4. Which hospital will the procedure be performed in?
Hospitals have the right to allow visiting rights to different doctors and they will only allow doctors who are qualified to perform the procedure to have that procedure be performed in the hospital.
If the surgeon is accredited to perform the procedure at a reputable hospital, it gives you the security that a hospital is confident in that surgeon’s abilities.
5. What type of anaesthetic will be performed during my procedure?
If any type of sedation or general anaesthetic is given, then an anaesthetist should be present.
For smaller procedures, local anaesthetic would be acceptable and these procedures can be performed in the office. If patients are expecting “twilight sedation” then an anaesthetist will need to be involved as they will be given intravenous sedation. For a general anaesthetic, the procedure does need to be performed in a fully accredited facility and this should be the standard of care all patients deserve.
6. What are the risks associated with the procedure?
Every surgical procedure carries potential risks and these are known as complications. Every surgeon will experience these potential complications and it is one of the variables that is innate to all surgical procedures.
The surgeon is obliged to minimise the chance of these risks by performing the procedure in appropriate setting with appropriate medical staff in support.
Prior to surgery, your surgeon should be able to present to you all of the potential complications for you to consider so you can make an informed decision as to whether surgery is the right procedure for you.
7. Can I see examples of your before and after work?
Surgeons should be able to present examples of the potential outcomes of all surgical procedures they are performing.
It is also important for the patient to ask if these examples of before and after photos shown are actually of the surgeon’s own work.
These before and after examples can be used to give a patient an indication of the likely outcome of surgery and what they can potentially expect.
8. What are your complication rates with this procedure?
Each surgeon will audit their own practice on a regular basis to establish whether they are maintaining a high enough standard.
It is reasonable for the patient to expect that the surgeon can present to them the likelihood and incidence of complications related to their own work.
9. What is the exact breakdown of the fees for surgery?
Prior to surgery, patients should be fully informed as to the surgical procedure and the financial complications. This is called “financial consent” and is mandatory for surgical procedures performed by plastic surgeons who are members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
10. What is your policy on revisional surgery?
Each surgeon will have a different policy as to the potential financial implications of revisional surgery and it is reasonable to establish this before the initial surgical procedure.
When complications are encountered, further costs may be occurred, be they hospital, anaesthetic or surgical, and this should all be explained to the patient prior to surgery.
Each surgeon will have a different protocol for who covers financial expenses in particular circumstances.