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Ask the Doctor at Saint John’s: The Difference between Reconstructive and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery: and Choosing the Best Plastic Surgeon for You

Q. What are the differences between reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery and how do I choose the best Plastic Surgeon for me?

A. By Rob Amonic. M.D., board certified plastic surgeon at Saint John’s Health Center.

Reconstructive Plastic Surgery is performed to re-shape or reconstitute bodily tissues in order to restore form and function, and make the patient whole again. In many cases, the surgery is covered by insurance and is frequently done in a hospital setting. Cosmetic Plastic Surgery is an elective procedure performed when the patient has a desire to improve his or her appearance, and is not usually covered by insurance. Cosmetic Surgery is commonly performed in the surgeon’s office.

Patients can find a plastic surgeon in a variety of ways including referrals from their physician, friends and the internet. However, it is important for the patient to investigate the doctor’s credentials, and confirm that he or she is board certified in plastic surgery. A direct way to do this, is to access the website – www.plasticsurgery.org….all board certified physicians in the country are listed on this website.

Following are suggested steps to selecting the right plastic surgeon for you:

  • Consult with at least two plastic surgeons and ask them if you are a candidate for the procedure you seek. Be open to the possibility that the plastic surgeon may give you other suggestions.

  • Make sure that you have a comfort level with, and like the surgeon you select. It is also important that the surgeon is comfortable with you – a plastic surgeon does not have to take on every patient that comes to consult with him/her.

  • Check the surgeons’ credentials. Find out what special areas they may board certified in, whether they are on staff at the hospital(s) in their area and whether they are privileged to do the procedure you seek at the hospital(s.)

  • Check with the State and Federal medical boards to see whether there are malpractice claims that have been filed against the physician you are considering.

  • After your first consultation, schedule a second one, and discuss with the surgeon the potential risks, complications and likely results for the procedure you seek.

There were approximately 2 million invasive cosmetic surgical procedures performed in the United States in 2007 and the most popular procedures for women were breast augmentation, liposuction, nasal surgery, eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty (tummy tucks.) For men, in addition to the above procedures, hair transplants and gynecomastic surgery (mail breast reduction) were also popular.

A typical full face lift including an eyelid procedure takes between four to five hours. Recovery time differs for different types of surgery, and depends on many factors among them: the type and location of the procedure, the gentleness of the physician the type of anesthesia, and the anticipated activity.

Utilizing newer techniques, deep anesthesia no longer required, and most patients wake up shortly after the surgery, with less of the well known symptoms such as delayed alertness and nausea. If a patient tends to bruise easily, there will be bruising. Removal of sutures may begin as early as three days after the procedure, and bandages are removed after the first night. Patients undergoing a full face lift are usually transferred to a recovery facility the day of the surgery so they may be cared for overnight by registered nurses who know what to look for during the recovery process. In most instances, patients can return to their normal activities within two weeks.

Rob Amonic, M.D. is a plastic surgeon at Saint John’s Health Center, specializing in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. For more information about Dr. Amonic and other Saint John’s services please call (310) 829-8990 or visit the website at www.stjohns.org. For a physician referral or a second opinion, please call 1-888-ASK-SJHC.

Want to learn about a variety of health and lifestyle issues? Watch “Coffee Break,” a weekly, live television show broadcast Wednesdays at 2 – 3 p.m. on Santa Monica City TV Channel 16 and LA City Channel 36.

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