The American Society of Plastic Surgeons launched a safety campaign this week. Despite the predictable and almost cliche warnings of botched cosmetic work and uncertified surgeons, its message remains important and valid, and should not be ignored by consumers wanting to undergo surgery.

Clearly the most important message of their campaign is simply for the consumer to educate themselves not only as to the surgeries they are interested in, but also about the practitioners and their experience and qualifications.

One of the problems they highlight is the lack of adequate training and practical skills which causes rookie surgeons to leave patients with a plethora of problems, including pronounced scarring, infections, over resection (where too much fat is removed in liposuction) and in some cases even gangrene where tissue becomes so badly infected it must be removed.

Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, new president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and chief of plastic surgery at the Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. clarifies :

“Sometimes, lengthy procedures will be done on people who are not medically suitable for them ….. If you have somebody who’s not surgically trained, they [don’t know] how to decide who’s a good or bad candidate for surgery. We’ve had people go to the ER with deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks, and unfortunately, not infrequently now, we’re hearing about death.”

In a classic example, they highlight the case of homemaker Dinora Rodriguez,40, who started out with what she thought was a “quick fix” breast implant and ended with what is known as a uniboob. This is where the implants are incorrectly placed, so that the individual pockets the surgeon creates, either behind the breast tissue or under the muscle for each breast implant, become merged, and the woman ends up with her two separate breasts taking on the appearance of kissing or being glued together. Its clearly an unsightly and disastrous problem that requires further surgery to correct.

In a clear warning to would be patients, it turns out that Ms. Rodriguez surgeon, who was recommend to her by a friend, was unlicensed. Although her breasts have now been corrected by a licensed surgeon, her first surgeon also attempted to fix a scar above her eye, a procedure she never asked for, which left her unable to close her eyes properly and is more complicated to rectify.

Liposuction is the most common plastic surgery, while Breast Augmentation is second on the list with around 350,000 enlargement procedures performed on women each year. While the results can be fantastic, there is obviously a need for patients to be careful about the practitioner they choose as well as consider if they really need the surgery.

“You should shop around for a plastic surgeon as carefully as you shop around for a car or a house,” says Roth “When you buy a house, you have a home inspector go and check it out beforehand. Patients need to do the same. Check the person’s credentials. Ask if they have hospital privileges. Ask how many of that type of procedures they’ve done. Ask to see pictures. Ask around in the community.”

The ASPS also highlight that outside of California, Louisiana, Texas and Florida (the four states who require medical providers to be completely clear about their level of training), any licensed doctor can practice in whatever field they choose, including plastic surgery. As this field is generally a lucrative private practice, more doctors are turning to this section of the heathcare market.

Roth says :

“Unfortunately, we have physicians ….. and people who aren’t even physicians ….. trying to grab some of the pot of gold that is considered cosmetic surgery.”

The message to patients considering cosmetic procedures is clear when it comes to choosing a doctor to perform the surgeries, and with the poster child for enhancement, Heidi Montag admitting in interviews that she sometimes wishes she could have her original body back, and that she finds her breasts so large she can’t jog or go to the gym any more, consumers don’t have much excuse for making wrong decisions.

In summary those considering plastic surgery need to do their research thoroughly.

A.) Consider if they really need the procedure in the first place.

B.) Look into the doctors background, license, training and experience with cosmetic surgeries.

C.) Don’t rely only on recommendations from friends.

D.) Study the pricing and know that if the price is too good to be true it probably is.

E.) Remember that all surgery carries a risk and all bodies are different, meaning their outcome might vary dramatically from person to person.

F.) Understand that expressions such as “Board Certified” used loosely does not necessarily mean the doctor is certified by the ASPS. A doctor “Board Certified” in any area of medicine, can offer to perform cosmetic procedures.

Only the ASPS certification guarantees at least five years of training in surgery and at least two years devoted to plastic surgery.

Rupert Shepherd reporting for Medical News