Seven Keys to Help Ensure Patient Satisfaction

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New York, NY (May 13, 2003) — According to the most comprehensive survey to date of U.S. physicians and surgeons by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), there were nearly 6.9 million cosmetic (aesthetic) surgical and nonsurgical procedures performed in 2002, representing a 228 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures since 1997. In addition, an ASAPS Consumer Attitudes Survey, conducted in February 2003, reveals that a substantial majority of Americans say they approve of cosmetic surgery and an overwhelming percent say they would not be embarrassed about having cosmetic surgery.

Most studies report that people are generally happy with the outcome of cosmetic procedures. Patients who have unrealistic expectations about the results of cosmetic plastic surgery may never be satisfied with the outcomes, despite results that are objectively judged as good. Some of these individuals have a rare psychiatric disorder called body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD.

Given that every surgery carries risk and that the patient's assessment of cosmetic surgical outcomes is necessarily subjective, the over-riding question for those considering cosmetic surgery is this: How can patients help to ensure their satisfaction after cosmetic surgery?

There can be no guarantees of results from cosmetic plastic surgery. However, ASAPS, the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery, says that patients can take certain steps to help ensure their safety and satisfaction when undergoing cosmetic surgery:

  • Check the surgeon's credentials. ASAPS membership ensures that the doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify doctors in the specialty of plastic surgery. [In Canada, ASAPS members must be certified in plastic surgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.] ASAPS members also meet other additional requirements for cosmetic surgery experience and continuing education.
  • Check for surgeon/patient rapport. Look beyond credentials to relationship. Optimal results are achieved when surgeon and patient candidly discuss benefits and risks and plan the course of the surgical journey together. Discuss what happens after surgery - what plans are in place in case of concerns or complications, however rare they may be. Just as the patient must be candid with the surgeon, so the surgeon must be responsive to the patient. Even the most experienced surgeon is not the "right" surgeon for every patient.
  • Check hospital privileges. Wherever the surgery will be performed, be sure that the surgeon has operating privileges in an accredited hospital for the same procedure being considered.
  • Check for facility accreditation. As of July 2002, ASAPS members performing plastic surgery in which anesthesia (other than local anesthesia and/or minimal tranquilization) is used must operate in a facility that meets at least one of the following criteria: accredited by a national or state-recognized accrediting organization; state-licensed; or Medicare-certified. Not all physicians performing cosmetic surgery meet these high standards.
  • Check for realistic expectations. Patients should understand that surgery has limitations, and these limitations vary greatly depending on individual patient factors. Frank discussions before surgery as to what is - and what is not - possible should lead to greater satisfaction after surgery when realistic goals have been achieved. Patient and surgeon should agree that the goals desired are realistic. While an "extreme makeover" may sound appealing, the plastic surgeon is ultimately the best judge of whether more than one procedure can be safely performed at the same time.
  • Check for underlying problems. Health and emotional issues must be addressed before surgery. Patients with underlying health or emotional problems may not be good candidates for surgery, and may be dissatisfied with objectively successful surgical results. Patients must be candid with their surgeons in order to assure that potential problems are addressed before surgery. A plastic surgeon may recommend further medical or psychological evaluation prior to putting patients on the surgical schedule.
  • Check for cost. Cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance, and some patients may be tempted by promises of "bargains." Remember, the second word of "cosmetic surgery" is "surgery," and the competence of the surgeon should be a patient's primary concern. At the same time, it is always advisable to have a complete understanding of all costs involved before deciding to undergo any procedure.

It is ASAPS' position that patient safety and satisfaction are paramount. Both are best achieved when surgical expertise is combined with a doctor-patient relationship that helps patients identify realistic goals and provides ongoing support from the initial consultation through recovery and follow-up.


The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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