Questions to ask your surgeon

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how trivial or how personal you think they’ll sound. It’s a good idea to write down your questions before hand, so you won’t forget any of them, and make notes during your appointment of the surgeon’s answers as well.

You should feel a bond of trust between you and your surgeon. The whole experience from the initial consultation right through to post operative visits should be focused on you, your comfort and your needs. A surgeon’s experience is his or her most valuable asset and should also be your initial guide to gauge their ability or competency. Doctors and surgeons are service providers who work for you. You are hiring them for their expertise and skill to carry out a medical procedure on your body.

Don’t be taken in by glossy advertisements. Not all medical practitioners performing cosmetic surgery are plastic reconstructive surgeons. Some don’t even have formal surgical qualifications so always check their credentials first. You are not seeking a ‘cosmetic surgeon’. You need a specialist Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon to do the type of surgery (chest reconstructive surgery) you’re looking for.

Be wary of a surgeon who –

  • Does not have hospital privileges for your procedure
  • Is certified or completed residency in an unrelated specialty
  • Is unwilling to answer your questions
  • Is impatient or has an arrogant manner
  • Is unprofessional in the office or their personal appearance
  • Pressures you
  • Does not have membership of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Formal surgical training in Australia is demanding and extensive. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) lays down rigorous training requirements. RACS provides the only recognised surgical qualification in Australia and is the only accredited college in Australia. Qualified Australian surgeons will always have FRACS after their name. FRACS stands for Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

The gold standard for Plastic Surgeons is membership of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) all qualified plastic surgeons in Australia will be a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. This is obvious in their name – for example Dr. Fred Blogs, (Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery) ASPS, F.R.A.C.S.

Some questions to ask yourself when deciding on a surgeon

  • Do I feel this surgeon has the experience to deal with any potential complications that might come up during my operation?
  • Do I trust this surgeon wants the best outcome for my chest surgery?
  • Is this surgeon is certified by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) with the letters FRACS after their name? Always ask if the surgeon is registered as a specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon in Australia.
  • Ask to see before and after photos of other chests the surgeon has operated on. This will help you see the range of results this surgeon gets. When choosing a surgeon, always ask around for recommendations from your GP and other patients.
  • How much experience with male chest reconstructive surgery has this surgeon had? Ask how many of these procedures the surgeon has performed in the past? Are you absolutely convinced this surgeon is comfortable doing this operation?
  • Ask what techniques the surgeon prefers to use and why? Ask the surgeon which technique they would recommend for you and why?
  • If nipple sensation is important to you, ask how this is affected after the surgery?
  • Ask about scarring. What scars will be left and where?
  • Ask what will happen in the hospital – Before the operation? During the operation? After the operation? Ask about aftercare, and take notes on the answers. How will you be followed up?
  • Ask what complications the surgeon has seen and how these are handled. Always ask, what happens if something goes wrong? You need to be satisfied you will receive care by competent medical professionals.
  • Ask the surgeon what the total cost of the procedure will be including the anaesthetist, surgical assistant/s, pathology tests, hospital costs and post-operative follow-ups? Are there any Medicare, Health Insurance or tax rebates applicable and is GST included in the cost?
  • You can also learn a lot about a surgeon from their staff. The surgeon will have chosen them and taught them to reflect his or her attitude to reconstructive surgery. If the staff are not interested in you, be wary, it might also be true of the surgeon.
  • Ask yourself: Is this the type of surgery I want? Does the surgeon demonstrate competency and a good success rate with this surgery? Does this surgeon’s agenda match my own? Do I feel comfortable with this surgeon? If you are uncomfortable with any of the answers, shop around some more.

It is a lot better to get the surgery you really want from a surgeon whom you have confidence in, even if it means a longer wait or more travel.

For more information: The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website

You can also phone the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons information hotline on 1300 367 446 or visit their website to make sure your surgeon is accredited.