Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Cosmetic Surgery
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Every year, millions of Americans are electing to have cosmetic surgery. In response to this growing demand, numerous doctors now widely advertise their services in this area of medical expertise. Most surgeons performing cosmetic surgery are qualified; however, beware of inexperienced and insufficiently trained doctors who are attracted to cosmetic surgery because of the millions of dollars spent by consumers each year on this product.

How Do You Choose the Right Doctor
Ask your personal or family physician for the names of qualified surgeons. You can also call your local hospital for referrals and consult the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Compendium of Certified Medical Specialists and the Directory of Medical Specialists. Consult with several surgeons who specialize in the procedure you want. This will involve a considerable investment of both time and money (consultation fees).

Ask Questions
No responsible doctor should mind you asking questions. Find out what the doctor's area of specialty is and what training the doctor has completed. Is the doctor certified by an appropriate medical board? Also, confirm the physician's credentials by contacting your local/county medical society or the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA)’s Consumer Services Unit at 1-888-419-3456. AHCA can also advise you of the doctor or surgeon's licensing status, as well as the discipline and complaint history of the physician.

Ask about the doctor's hospital privileges. Find out how many operations the doctor has performed. How many patients required either follow-up or corrective surgery? How safe is the surgery? Ask the physician to explain all possible risks, complications and side effects. Make sure the doctor reviews each step of the procedure with you, including the before, during and after stages of the operation. Who will administer the anesthesia? Who will handle post-op? Where will your surgery take place? Do not forget to discuss your expectations with your doctor. Are they realistic? Ask your doctor if you can contact former patients for referrals. Lastly, and probably most important, find out how much the procedure, hospital charges, anesthesia charges, follow-up care, and any other incidentals will cost you. Remember, medical insurance usually does not cover the costs of elective cosmetic surgery, and many physicians require payment in advance.

Additional Information
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can provide further information about breast implants, collagen injections, and liquid silicone injections. To obtain this information, call the FDA’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-INFO-FDA (888-463-6332). For the hearing impaired, the number is 1-800-688-6167.

If the physician you choose suggests to you that the operation can be performed in the office, check with one of the following organizations to see if the facility has passed an inspection: the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc. at (847) 853-6060; the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities at (847) 949-6058; or the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations at (630) 916-5600.

Following surgery, if you have a problem that cannot be resolved with your doctor, contact your local/county medical society or the Agency For Health Care Administration (AHCA). If you desire to file a complaint, you may contact AHCA at 1-888-419-3456. For a free brochure on Cosmetic Surgery, write to: Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580, or call (202) 326-2222, TDD (202)326-2502.