As a plastic surgeon, I would expect that most of my friends and family would call me to ask about wrinkles, skin care, or aesthetic surgeries. But this is not the case. Instead, most of the time, my friends and family members call to ask about doctors from other specialties, confused about their background and certification.
The process of finding and selecting a physician can be very difficult, especially with the overwhelming amount of information that is readily available in today’s digital world.
So how does one select a plastic surgeon for their breast reconstruction? An even more challenging question is, how does one find a plastic surgeon who specializes in DIEP flaps and other perforator based autologous breast reconstruction operations?
Unfortunately, there is no one accepted algorithm or answer to this question, but there are certain things that I feel would be critical components to consider:
At which institutions did your surgeon complete residency?
- The American Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is one of the organizations which accredits residency training programs. Their website does a nice job of explaining their mission, what they do to accredit residency programs, and which programs and institutions they have accredited: http://www.acgme.org/acgmeweb/tabid/83/ProgramandInstitutionalAccreditation.aspx
Did your surgeon complete a fellowship?
- The term “fellowship” can be perplexing. It typically describes training that is done after a physician completes residency. Fellowships offer further specialization in a specific sub-specialty. For example, a plastic surgeon may complete a residency program and then elect to spend additional time doing extra training in a specific area, such as reconstructive surgery, microsurgery, cosmetic surgery, hand surgery, or craniofacial surgery, to name a few.
Did your surgeon complete a fellowship focusing on reconstructive microsurgery?
- > For DIEP flaps and other perforator-based autologous tissue breast reconstructions (such as IGAP, SGAP, PAP, and TUG flaps), there are several reconstructive microsurgery fellowship programs that focus on these types of reconstructions. There is no accrediting organization, but more information can be obtained by visiting this page offered by the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgeons (ASRM): http://www.microsurg.org/fellowships/match_list/
Is your surgeon board certified?
- This can be a confusing topic for patients and even people in the field of medicine. After a physician completes medical school, residency, and possibly a fellowship, they can go on to become certified by a medical specialty board.
- The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is one of the main organizations which collaborate with its 24 Member Boards to develop and implement educational and professional standards for certifying doctors in medical specialties. Their website had an easy physician look-up: http://www.certificationmatters.org/
- The only ABMS-recognized board for plastic surgery is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
- Generally speaking, if someone advertises “Board Certified,” it is a good idea to find out EXACTLY by which board and if that board is recognized by the ABMS (or other reliable organizations overseeing medical boards.)
- State medical boards generally have a very stringent licensing process that scrutinizes an applicant’s background, training, and previous practice track record.
- State boards also usually provide a very easy mechanism for looking up your physician to check their state licensing status.
- The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) lists most of the medical boards for each state and has an easy physician look-up tool if you want to check the licensure status of your physician: http://www.fsmb.org/for-the-public.html
Is your surgeon a member of the major medical specialty societies
- There are several medical specialty societies, making this topic one of the most confusing and difficult to explain.
- In plastic surgery, one of the main organizations is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Members of this society will often have a blue circle on their webpages and other media. Membership to this society has several requirements, one of the most important being certification by an ABMS-recognized medical specialty board. To learn more about what the blue circle and ASPS membership means, visit this page: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/articles-and-galleries/patient-and-consumer-information/asps-member-qualifications.html
- Another strong organization is the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM). This society focuses on microsurgery, which is the main surgical technique used for the DIEP, GAP, PAP, and TUG flap procedures. One of the main requirements for membership to this society is documented evidence of training in “reconstructive and/or microneurovascular surgery.” Additional requirements can be viewed at this link: http://www.microsurg.org/join/requirements/
I would not recommend answering these questions from the information provided on a physician’s website or personal social media pages. Instead, use the official sites in the links above to confirm their training and background. If you don’t see your physician listed, you might want to call the organizations above for confirmation about your physician’s background or membership.
These are only some of the resources and I am sure there are others that can be used to confirm your doctor’s background and training. And, let’s face it, I’m either approved by or a member of most of the things mentioned above, so I’m a bit biased. But I have dedicated much of my practice to breast reconstruction, microsurgery, and DIEP flap surgeries, so I am proud to highlight these organizations and resources.
If you find yourself in need of other kinds of cosmetic or reconstructive procedures, here are tips on how to find the right plastic surgeon for you.
If you have any questions about this material or would like further information, please feel free to contact us at [email protected].