Planning a cosmetic or elective procedure can be confusing. So many options and details are involved that it’s easy to overlook some basics that will help you along the way.

To help you out, we asked doctors on RealSelf: What are the top questions you wish patients would ask, but they don’t? Find their incredibly helpful answers below. 


Choosing a doctor

“Do you have hospital privileges?”

“If a patient needs to be seen in a hospital, your own doctor can take care of you,” said Dr. Pramit Malhotra, a plastic surgeon in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Also hospitals will verify that surgeons are board-certified and are in good standing.”


“Is your operating room staff full-time employees or contracted per diem workers? Why is that important?”

“There’s no one right way for a doctor to staff their office, but it’s great to have full-time staff because when you have the same surgical technician, nurses, and anesthesiologist, they are very aware of what the doctor needs and how long the surgery will take,” said Dr. Shahram Salemy, a Seattle plastic surgeon. “It makes things go a lot smoother, and as a result, often patients are under anesthetic for a lot less time and that means less cost for the patient.”


“Do you specialize in this procedure?”

You can often get better results from a specialist. “There have been many medical studies that show that the more frequently a surgeon performs the procedure, the better the results and the lower the chance of a complication,” said Dr. Malhotra.

Dr. Ricardo Meade, a Dallas plastic surgeon, added, “There are many fields within plastic surgery that I exclude myself from. The purpose is to narrow down the operations that I perform and do those few with high accuracy.”


How good is the doctor at the procedure?

You can find this out by asking two questions: “How many times per week do you perform this procedure?” and “What procedures do you love to perform?”

“Surgeons who perform procedures frequently have shorter anesthetic times and a well-trained team that is used to helping on these specific procedures,” said Dr. Malhotra. “Plastic surgeons will often excel at procedures they love to perform.”


“How should I choose the best surgeon for Brazilian butt lift?”

This procedure is popular but risky. Dr. Daniel Del Vecchio, a Boston plastic surgeon, says, “You should find a surgeon who’s done at least 1,000 cases and has had no serious complications including death. You should also find a surgeon who performs this operation in two hours or less. You should ask the surgeon what technique they use to harvest, prepare, and insert the fat.”


Related: 20 essential questions to ask at a consultation.

Before your procedure

“What are the steps I can take between my consultation and surgery to get the best results and have the smoothest recovery?”

“One part of surgery preparation is physical. You need to be at or near your ideal weight, and other medical issues should be stabilized,” said Dr. Salemy. “But the other part is social, and people don’t think about that much. 

“For example, I see a lot of moms,” he continues. “And moms are always looking out for everyone before themselves, but you can’t do that when you’re recovering from surgery. Make sure that before your surgery, you get everything arranged for someone else to pick up the kids, take them to soccer practice, etc. It can cause complications if you try to do too much too soon.”


After your procedure

“How can I maintain my post-op results for the long term?”

“If patients gain a significant amount of weight after body surgery or have a facelift and then spend hours in the sun, their results will be altered,” Dr. Salemy said. “It’s also important to wear a good, supportive bra, even after breast augmentation.”


“What techniques do you use to reduce my time off from work?”

“Quick recovery techniques involving long-acting anesthetics, great surgical technique, and minimal bleeding will reduce your swelling, pain, and time off from work,” Dr. Malhotra said.


“Should I have lymphatic massage after liposuction?”

“There is no scientific evidence that lymphatic massage improves the cosmetic result,” Dr. Del Vecchio said. “Coordinated postoperative care is vital for good result.  A correctly fitted girdle with foam, recommended by your surgeon, is more effective than any post-op lymphatic massage.”


Getting results you want

“Are there a few recent patients I could talk with who have had this procedure?”

“This will allow you to get firsthand accounts of the healing,” Dr. Malhotra said.  “The postoperative care, and the skill of the surgeon.”


“If I need a revision, will there be additional costs?”

“Many surgeons will waive their own fees if a minor revision is necessary,” Dr. Malhotra said. “However, there is often an operating room charge.”


“How often are patients unhappy with results?”

“This allows for an open and honest discussion about the risks of the procedure,” Dr. Malhotra said.


“Do you think I’ll be happy with the procedure you’re recommending?”

It’s important to remember your ultimate goal in getting a procedure. “The end result of a successful rhinoplasty surgery is a happy patient, not a perfect nasal appearance,” said Dr. Eric Joseph, a plastic surgeon in West Orange, New Jersey. “Improved self-esteem and well-being is more likely to occur after rhinoplasty in those who are expecting significant improvement, rather than ‘perfection.’ ”


One last question to ask…

“What should I be asking that I forgot to ask?” This is a great question to finish up any consult. “I always answer this question with all the things I would want to know if I was sitting in their seat,” Dr. Malhotra said.


Have questions of your own? Ask a doctor on RealSelf.