Red Flags for Plastic Surgery

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

In an age when insurance companies are cutting back on physician reimbursements, some doctors are trying to find ways to make more money that bypass the scrutiny of governmental agencies.

So, they are performing cosmetic procedures in their offices, which is perfectly legal, but maybe not ethical.

When you're looking at the faces on the covers of your favorite magazine, look for the words: "Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery" or "Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons."

That means the doctor has passed oral and written exams after completing a two to three year residency program devoted solely to plastic surgery, in addition to years of basic medical training. There are similar standards for ear, nose and throat doctors to be certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery.

"Yes, 95 percent of the time or more I can go out or they can go out and do plastic surgery and have very good results," Dr. Richard Orr, Jr. says. "It's those rare patients who have problems where that plastic surgery training really comes in."

Dr. Orr says you should check board certification status before your consultation. Get references about an M.D. from friends, nurses or other hospital employees. Ask your family physician for input and check with local hospitals. If a doctor is only doing procedures in the office, there might be a reason.

"Hospitals will only allow board certified plastic surgeons to do their procedures there," explains Dr. Orr.

Next, make sure the doctor actually specializes in the cosmetic procedure you want. And ask to see some patient before and after photos, but keep in mind yours probably won't look like this.

"For someone to come in and say they want Brad Pitt's nose or Angelina Jolie's lips, I can't promise that I can do that," says Dr. Orr. "I can only work with the cards we're dealt. I can only work with the tissues they've given me and many times we can make improvements along that line, but I sure don't guarantee we're going to give them someone else's face."

So, how do you know if a doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? They'll be happy to tell you because they've worked very hard for that distinction. Plenty of Web sites also exist to help you find these doctors and check out their credentials.

Patients who want to see for sure which board has certified their doctor can go to the Web site of the American Board of Medical Specialties at or call 1-847-491-9091.

For physician referrals from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national society representing Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, go to or call 1-888-4-PLASTIC.