How to Help a Patient Choose the Correct Cosmetic Procedure

June 17, 2014
Robert T. Grant, MD, MSc, FACS

The more specifically patients frame the "bothersome issues" that led them to consider elective cosmetic surgery, the higher their likelihood of achieving successful surgical outcomes.

The more specifically patients frame the “bothersome issues” that led them to consider elective cosmetic surgery, the higher their likelihood of achieving successful surgical outcomes. That is why I teach my plastic surgery residents to ask prospective patients targeted questions like “How long has this issue been bothering you?” and “How do you see the potential for improvement from the procedure impacting your life?” in their initial consultation appointments.

Patients may think plastic surgery is the appropriate route to resolving their issues, but that is not always the case. In fact, spending ample time listening to a patient to better understand his or her ideal surgical results has often led me to recommend a different procedure from what the patient originally believed would revolve his or her issue. Additionally, providing a detailed description of the recommended surgery, recovery time, and anticipated results allows my patients to make informed decisions on whether or not a procedure is appropriate for them.

Even the least-invasive procedures like fillers and lasers carry risks and side effects, so plastic surgeons must discern in the initial consultation appointment whether a patient is a reasonable and realistic candidate for cosmetic surgery. Since it is essential to ensure the patient is at an ideal weight and has first tried diet and exercise to resolve an issue, I typically advise seeking out a nutritionist or personal trainer prior to cosmetic surgery.

Although no plastic surgeon can say whether a patient’s enhanced postoperative body image will improve his or her marriage or desirability to a potential employer, we can examine the reasons why an individual is considering a procedure, as well as look for red flags like divorce or loss of a job that alert us to have a more serious conversation. While patients may appear better postoperatively, they may not feel better — and there is an important distinction between the two.

As experts who guide cosmetic journeys from start to finish, it is our job to determine whether an individual is ready for cosmetic surgery. If a person is, indeed, an appropriate candidate, then we need to ensure he or she understands which procedure will produce the best results physically and emotionally.

Robert T. Grant, MD, MSc, FACS, is Chief of the combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. For more information about Dr. Grant or to contact him, visit his website at www.robertgrantmd.com.