The best patient is an educated patient. Take control of your health by knowing what to expect from your doctor and your surgery.

Asking the right questions before having plastic surgery can help you make smart, informed decisions about your health. This includes questions about surgical technique and complications as well as your doctor’s training and expertise.

Alex K. Wong, MD, an assistant professor of Surgery in the USC Department of Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC who specializes in breast reconstruction and aesthetic surgery, suggests the following to start a frank conversation with your doctor.

1. Is your doctor board-certified in plastic surgery?

“Board certification is not easy to achieve,” Dr. Wong said. “It is a high-level screening where doctors must pass exams on certain proficiencies, and they are graded by the most respected plastic surgeons in the country. It’s hard for a reason, and you want a doctor who is performing at the top level. You’d be surprised by how many doctors are doing cosmetic surgery that are not board-eligible.”

2. Do you have before-and-after photos or reviews from past patients?

It is not unreasonable to ask about the satisfaction of past patients who have had the same procedure that you are considering. Looking at photos will help you form realistic expectations, and reading reviews may prompt additional questions for your doctor and provide you with information you had not considered.

3. Do you feel comfortable communicating with your plastic surgeon?

You should never feel hesitant or intimidated to ask your doctor a question, no matter how trivial. Chances are it is something they have been asked before.

Also consider whether your doctor is someone with whom, if you are not happy with the outcome, you can have an honest follow-up conversation. Do you feel like your doctor would work with you to rectify the outcome?

Likewise, you have a right to inquire about their training and experience; after all, it is your body and health at stake. “This might be the most important question to ask yourself,” Dr. Wong said. “You need to make sure that your doctor is competent and that they understand your goals for the surgery upfront.”

4. Does your doctor perform this specific surgery on a routine basis — and do they like doing the surgery?

Practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when it comes to plastic surgery.

“Your surgeon doesn’t have to perform a specific procedure every day, but it should be at least several times a month to maintain proficiency,” Dr. Wong said. “They should also enjoy doing the surgery. I don’t do noses because I enjoy other kinds of surgery more.”

5. How skilled is the support team?

Once surgery is over, your doctor will monitor your progress, but other professionals will actually take care of you.

“At a comprehensive hospital like Keck Medicine, your circulating nurse, scrub tech, anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist have a depth of knowledge and an arsenal of tools and equipment to handle any complication under the sun,” Dr. Wong said. “Having a skilled support team can make a huge difference in your comfort level and recovery.”

By Heidi Tyline King

Looking for a board-certified plastic surgeon who can advise you on your procedure? If you are local to Southern California, schedule an appointment with one of the experts at the USC Department of Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting http://www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.