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How to pick your breast surgeon?

Posted by Dr Jamie Burt on 29 August 2015

Picking the right surgeon for you and your needs is a very important consideration, it is a life changing decision. Let's look at  the decision based on three criteria:

1. Certification and Qualifications

2. Experience

3. Rapport with you

Let's look at these each in turn.

1. Certification and Qualifications - Is your  breast surgeon qualified?

In Australia anyone with a medical degree can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon and then carry out cosmetic surgery as long as the patient has given consent. You need to do your homework and ensure that your  breast doctor has the qualification and accreditation to carry out breast reduction surgery.  In Australia this means  being a part of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons with a degree from a college that has a reputation for this area of expertise like The Royal Australian College of Surgeons. Ensure your surgeon has earned a degree from an accredited medical college.Are you dealing with a qualified plastic surgeon? Many people use the terms plastic surgeon and cosmetic surgeon interchangeably, but there is a very important distinction between the two. To become a qualified plastic surgeon, a doctor must undertake eight to ten years of specialist training through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. This qualification is denoted by the letters 'FRACS', which are shown after a plastic surgeon's name. No additional training beyond a basic medical degree is required to use the term 'cosmetic surgeon' and therefore, the level of skill of a cosmetic surgeon cannot be reliably determined.

2. Experience

Having years of experience in doing breast reduction surgery will give you the confidence that your chosen surgeon has dealt this the issues that can go wrong during surgery and know what options are best for you. How long has the surgeon been practicing? How many times have they performed the procedure you are interested in? An experienced surgeon has had more opportunity to build skill and develop the confidence to deal with any complications that may arise during surgery. An experienced surgeon will also have more examples of past work available to view and more patients for you to confer with. Being able to talk to past patients, see example of the surgeon's work and have a referral is often a big comfort when choosing the right surgeon.

3. Rapport with you. - Are they honest?

Do you feel comfortable with the surgeon? The surgeon you choose will be responsible for changing the way you look and function. It is important that you feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share personal details with them about your medical history. An open dialog between surgeon and patient is vital to successful plastic surgery outcomes. You should also feel completely comfortable with the procedure recommended by the surgeon. At no time should you feel pressured to undergo a procedure you are not comfortable with. The best way to know if the surgeon you choose is right for you is to make an appointment and go armed with questions. Is the surgeon being honest? A good surgeon will tell you all of the information you need to know, even the parts that you might not want to hear. That doesn't mean that a good surgeon will be rude. It means that they will tell you, in a respectful and professional manner, whether the results you want are realistically attainable and safe, the best procedure to achieve your desired result, the risks and possible complications involved in the procedure, whether you are a good candidate for surgery, and what the costs will be.How many times has the doctor performed the procedure?

  • How long has the doctor performed the procedure?
  • What other procedures does he/she perform?
  • Who will assist in the procedure? Their qualifications and training?
  • Are all involved licensed in good standing?
  • What is involved in the procedure? How is it performed?
  • Can I see multiple before and after photos of patients on whom you have performed this procedure?
  • Can you provide me with three to five reference patients on whom you've performed this procedure?
  • What are the exact breakdown of fees for this procedure?
  • Can I get advance copies of all forms I have to complete and sign prior to procedure?
  • Are you insured for malpractice? ( All doctors in Australia have to have medical insurance to get re-registered each year)
  • What type of anesthetic is required ? Will it be a general anesthetic?
  • Who will administer the anesthetic? Are they a fully qualified anesthetist?
  • How long will the procedure last?
  • How long will the an aesthetic effects last?
  • How long will it take to recover in the facility before discharge?
  • Where will the surgery take place? Is it a fully accredited hospital or is it a day centre? Can it deal with an emergency?
  • If there was a problem would I be able to have all my treatment at this hospital or would they transfer me to another hospital?
  • Will post-operative medicine be necessary?
  • Will there be noticeable scarring?
  • What realistic result can I expect?
  • Will the doctor perform the procedure from the first cut to the last stitch?
  • What are the risks associated with this procedure?
  • What are the warning signs or concerns to watch for?
  • Do you do revisions and at what cost?

Does the surgeon offer holistic care? A thorough surgeon will ensure that they meet with a patient as many times as is required prior to surgery, will schedule post-surgical appointments to ensure recovery is progressing well, and will make themselves available to patients should they experience complications after their procedure. For this reason, it is best to choose a surgeon who practices locally and will be easily accessible should problems arise after surgery.

Dr Jamie BurtAuthor:Dr Jamie Burt
About: Dr Jamie Burt was born and educated in Melbourne, attending the University of Melbourne and graduating with MBBS in 1998. He is a member of the Senior Medical Staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and was Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute until 2004. Known for his respectful, informative, and caring approach, Jamie has been caring for women with breast reduction concerns for over 15 years. During this time, one moment stands out as defining what he aims to achieve with The Breast Reduction Clinic.
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