Questions to Ask Your Practitioner

From lunch-break tweaks to major surgical changes, you need to know what to ask your practitioner before proceeding with any cosmetic enhancement. Knowing more about the procedure and your practitioner will help you make an informed decision.

The Practitioner

Research your practitioner

It is important that you learn as much as you can about your surgeon or practitioner before the initial consultation. You are looking for a properly trained surgeon, certified in your area of concern. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about his or her qualifications.  You can also ask to see their certifications. Often they are displayed on the consulting room wall. 

What do they specialise in?

Ask about your prospective doctor’s specialty and find out how often your procedure of interest is performed in the clinic.

How many times have they performed this procedure?

You should also ask how long they have been performing these procedures for. You don’t want to be your surgeon’s very first nose job. Your practitioner should also be performing the specialist procedure on a regular basis rather than once or twice a year.

What other medical staff will assist with the procedure?

A common assumption is that the surgeon you have your consultation with will be the person performing the procedure, but this is not always the case. Sometimes it can be an associate in the practice. Depending on the nature of the procedure, there may also be other specialists and nurses present during the surgery. It is important to know in advance who these people are and what qualifications they have.

What is the complication rate with this procedure?

Obviously, your practitioner cannot violate patient confidentiality, but this is still a good question to ask. Your practitioner should be able to give you a percentage or number of patients who have had complications in the past, what these complications were and the reasons these occurred.

It is doubtful that any practitioner or surgeon will be pleased to talk about procedures that did not go to plan. They should, however, be willing to give you information that will help you make an informed decision.

The Procedure

Is the procedure right for me?

Your practitioner will need to fully understand what you want to change and how far you are willing to go before talking about your options. Discussing the desired outcome with your practitioner may reveal several ways of reaching your goal, including procedures that are non-surgical. For instance, lines and wrinkles on the face can be removed with a surgical facelift or with non-surgical treatments such as chemical peels, fractional laser, photo rejuvenation and anti-wrinkle injections.  It is difficult to make an informed choice without all the relevant information.

How long does the procedure take?

Tummy tuck surgery can take between 1 and 3 hours. Non-surgical treatments like anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers typically take an hour or less to complete. Knowing how long the procedure takes is important information that might influence your decision.

Where will the procedure be performed?

Some procedures are performed in a hospital. Others are performed in an approved facility, and still others are performed in a clinic. Ask your practitioner where your procedure will be performed and, if it is not a hospital, ask to see the facility. If you are having any form of surgery, it is important that the day hospital or clinic be approved to perform these operations.

How many procedures do I need to undergo to achieve my goals?

Typically, non-surgical cosmetic enhancement treatments require that you return every 6 months or so. Some surgical procedures may need to be redone after 5 to 10 years. Depending on your area of concern, your practitioner will be able to provide a more precise evaluation.

What will the end result be?

What will you look like after the procedure/s? Are the results permanent? Answering these questions is vital in re-examining the results you desire and deciding whether or not the treatment will meet your expectations.

What should I do before the procedure?

Ask your practitioner how you can prepare for the surgery or procedure, starting from a month ahead to the day of the procedure. You should also ask for a list of food, supplements, medications, and activities to be avoided during this time.

A list of supplements and medications you should avoid prior to any procedure, may include diet pills and herbal medications such as gingko biloba, ginseng, and St. Johns Wort. You should also not take aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs for one week prior to surgery.

Anyone having elective surgery must also give up smoking at least two weeks before surgery as it inhibits recovery and amplifies the risk of infection and other complications. Non-surgical treatments have less strict pre-operative guidelines.

When can I go back to work or resume normal physical activity after my procedure?

You should clearly understand how much bed rest you will need. If you are having a procedure before an important event, like a wedding, it’s important to know how long you should be resting. A chemical peel may show results in a week’s time, but complete recovery from surgery takes more time. You may need to seriously restrict your activities for as long as a month.

What are the possible complications of the procedure?

There are risks involved in any surgical or non-surgical procedure, and you should be aware of all of them. It is easy to feel excited about how you will look after changing your face or body, but keep in mind that complications from any procedure can occur. Your practitioner should go through all of these as they might apply to you.

Will I have scars? If so, will they be obvious?

Visible scars from cosmetic surgery are the last things we need, especially as we all want the results to look as natural as possible. Surgery requires incisions, however, and there is no such thing as scar-free surgery. A skilled surgeon will hide scars in natural creases and make them difficult to detect. Your surgeon can also advise you about scar healing treatments that may speed up the healing process. If your skin tends to scar badly, tell your practitioner.

What are the costs of the procedure/s?

Ask your practitioner or surgeon about the costs associated with the procedure, including hospital costs, anaesthetist fee and any other related fees.

In Australia, certain procedures such as fractional laser resurfacing for severe acne scarring may attract a Medicare rebate, depending on the practitioner. For the most part, Medicare does not reimburse aesthetic surgeries, although, depending on your policy, it may be available for the non-cosmetic aspects.

Ask to see before and after photos

Ask your practitioner to show you before and after photos of previous procedures. This will help you determine if the procedure will meet your expectations.

When is my first post-operative appointment?

It is customary to see your doctor for a post-operative check-up. The first post-operative check-up is vital because this is when the outcome of the procedure is examined, especially to ensure that the recovery process is going to plan. Often, the post-op check-up is scheduled on the day after or a week following surgery.

Can I Really Ask these Questions?

Funnily enough, some practitioners don’t like answering pointed questions from prospective patients, and they don’t necessarily volunteer such information. Fortunately, there are ways to find answers to some of these questions without talking to the practitioner at all.

An internet search of the surgeon or practitioner can yield a lot of facts. A practitioner’s degrees and certificates can often be found online, along with other possibly pertinent information. Sometimes there are even patient reviews. A friendly chat with the Practice Manager can yield answers to questions about the how often a particular procedure is performed, as well as the likely venue for any particular surgical procedure.

The bottom line is this: Even if only to a tiny extent, your face, your body and the contents of your wallet are at risk every time you elect to have a cosmetic procedure.  You have the right to obtain as much information as you need to feel confident you are making the right decision as to surgeon, practitioner and procedure. If your questions are shunted aside or met with indifference or even anger, perhaps you should consider interviewing another surgeon.

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