Created on 25th February 2009
The decision to have cosmetic surgery shouldn't be taken lightly. Cosmetic Surgery Magazine UK takes you through the consultation process so that you can be sure to get the best possible treatment for you
Cosmetic surgery and dentistry both benefit thousands of people every year but before you take the plunge, it's important to establish that you're making the right decision. This is what the consultation process is for. Although some people see it as a technicality, if you're going to reap maximum rewards from your treatment, the consultation should be taken as seriously as the surgery.
Adam Searle, consultant plastic surgeon and President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), says consumers need to make educated decisions. "There is a real need for patients to take responsibility when choosing a surgeon, and to ask the right questions." The first of these is whether your surgeon is qualified. Rajiv Grover, consultant plastic surgeon (020 7486 4301) explains that only certain qualifications actually mean anything. "The FRCS (Plast) is the only specialist exam in Plastic Surgery through the Royal College of Surgeons. And BAAPS is the only organisation solely concerned with Aesthetic Surgery approved by the Royal College of Surgeons. The Surgeon should also be on the GMC Specialist register for Plastic Surgery.
"Ask how many such operations they perform per year and how many they have performed in total. An experienced surgeon should have performed the operation you are interested in at least 50 times a year. You should also understand what your procedure involves in terms of hospital stay, type of anaesthesia and the placement of scars. Make sure the surgeon explains what the likely outcome will be so that you have a realistic idea of whether it can achieve what you are looking for and get a good idea of the likely recovery period and whether this fits in to your work and social schedule. Remember there are occasions when recovery can take a little longer as every individual's response to surgery does vary. Nothing in plastic surgery can be safely performed in your lunch hour despite tabloid headlines."
If it's dentistry rather than surgery you're opting for, check qualifications with The British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (www.bacd.com). They say: "Any qualified dentist can offer cosmetic dentistry and no UK postgraduate qualification is recognised in cosmetic dentistry. BACD cosmetic dentists must have carried out a minimum of 50 hours of verifiable post-graduate education in cosmetic dentistry in the last two years." However, don't base your decision solely on paper. "Make sure you ask for samples of work, and request before and after photos. Testimonials are also useful, and it's even better if you are able to contact any past patients. Remember, just because the practitioner may have been your regular dentist for years, they might not be experienced enough in the specific aesthetic procedure you are after."
During a cosmetic dentistry consultation, BACD says you should get "an estimate of how long the results will last, and advice for maintaining longevity. Anyone considering any cosmetic dentistry treatments should expect to be fully informed about the entire procedure and side-effects or risks. If there is any information you don't understand, insist on further clarification. Find out if there are other treatments available that solve the problem, and the cost implications. There should always be a support system in place if something doesn't go to plan." If you've got a healthy mouth, your procedure is more likely to go well.
No matter how qualified your surgeon or dentist is, you still need to ensure that you make your own decisions. Anyone reputable should offer unbiased information about what might be possible, and the risks and benefits of any procedure. As BAAPS say, "don't let anyone talk you into doing anything for which you had little concern before the consultation".
But don't be put off if your consultant tells you something you don't really want to hear. Dr Patrick Treacy says, "Respect the doctor who is strictly honest with you regarding your age, cosmetic problems, and eventual expectations. Respect the doctor who gives you a mirror and asks you what your problem is or the proceduralist who asks you to consider things and come back another day."
Think about why you're getting the surgery too: unless it's utterly essential, avoid getting any procedure done if you're going through a major life event such as moving house, splitting up with a partner, having a baby or losing a loved one. Rajiv Grover says, "After completing your family it is not a good idea to have any cosmetic surgery within nine months of childbirth until the skin has recovered from stretching both in the abdomen and over the breasts."
Even if you're not going through an emotional time, Grover recommends you consult a doctor before your surgery. "Your GP has no interest other than your welfare, so many doctors are very happy to advise patients and not be judgemental about something which many people feel very sensitive and vulnerable about."
As in life, when it comes to surgery you should follow your gut instinct. Dr Patrick Treacy says, "You have to feel totally comfortable and trust the judgment of your doctor. Be aware that a procedure may be offered to you just because the doctor may not have the skills to do something else."
If you don't feel comfortable with an organisation, surgeon or clinic, look elsewhere. Rajiv Grover says, "Go to someone on recommendation if possible (either via a friend or your family doctor). You must choose someone that you feel you have rapport and trust with. You are putting your face or body in their hands." And think about safety issues too. Dr Patrick Treacy says, "Make sure your cosmetic surgeon has admission rights to a nearby hospital."
Finally, don't try to get something for nothing. ‘Free' consultations tend to be sales-led rather than focused on what's best for the patient. Rajiv Grover says, "Beware of glossy advertising and free consultations. Reputable surgeons will rarely need to advertise and will almost certainly charge a fee for the consultation." Similarly, you should avoid booking fees or non-refundable deposits. BAAPS say, "Nothing is free and if the surgery is right for you then there will be no need for you to be locked into going ahead by any financial cancellation penalties."
Rajiv Grover recommends you are fully aware of all the finances by the end of your consultation too. "Find out surgical fees, anaesthetic fees, hospital costs and follow up, including what the policy is for dealing with any complications (fortunately this is not common but they can occur)."
It may seem like a lot to take on board, but it's worth the financial and temporal investment. According to Mark Henley, consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS Council member, "Cosmetic surgery undertaken in appropriate circumstances is very positive and can be life changing in a highly beneficial way. However, if things are not right then it is likely to be at least unsatisfactory and, at worst, disastrous for all concerned." CSMUK
www.baaps.org.uk: provides an accredited list of surgeons as
well as safety guidelines
www.bacd.com: the organisation for the British Association of
www.cosmeticdoctors.co.uk: the organisation for doctors
specialising in non-invasive procedures
www.rsceng.ac.uk: The Royal College of Surgeons website
provides advice for patients